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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

In Notes from the Underground, hyper-consciousness distinguishes the Underground Man from the rest of the world. Cursed with acute-awareness, he can't act because consciousness causes him to believ...

Literature and Writing

In Notes from the Underground, the Underground Man has retreated from reality to a world of books. He lives in literary fantasies – duels, chivalry, impractical love affairs, redemption ̵...

Fate and Free Will

Notes from the Underground presents a fascinating twist on the classic fate vs. free will argument. Fate in this case has nothing to do with divine will. If man is "fated" in any way, it is only be...

Philosophical Viewpoints: Existentialism

Notes from the Underground is generally seen as a forerunner to existentialism, so the text presents many of the philosophy's main tenets, if in a less developed way. Let's start with absurdity: th...

Suffering

In Notes from the Underground, the Underground man argues that suffering is enjoyable – even a toothache. The pleasure, he says, comes when you are intensely conscious of your pain, adding th...

Hate

"I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man." These are the opening words of Notes from the Underground, and indeed the Underground Man lives in a constant state of misdir...

Isolation

Notes from the Underground features a lonely, self-isolated, self-hating hermit who has spent the last twenty years of his life underground. However, this Underground Man has been alone, "always al...

Society and Class

Notes from the Underground was written at a time when the plight of the lower classes was finally being recognized in Russia. The Underground Man himself, while not of the lowest class, does consid...

Revenge

Much of Notes from the Underground has to do with thwarted attempts at revenge. The Underground Man argues that revenge is more difficult – impossible, actually – for an intelligent and...

Principles

In Notes from the Underground, the isolated anti-hero lives under a strict, harsh philosophy of his own choosing. He is convinced of a series of certainties, such as the necessity of suffering. He...
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