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Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground: A Commentary, Part II

The first part of the book takes place in 1864 when the antihero is 40 years old. He is a government worker with a pathetic lonely life filled with images of his own false superiority. It keeps him aloof from all human contact. Now, the story goes back to 1848 when he is 24 years old. The 1840’s fostered egoism and the dream world of universal idealism. It is the natural extension of romanticism, which created a happy world while ignoring basic moral obligations. It is a false vision. There is this overwhelming sense of love of all humanity. It is easier to love humanity in the abstract rather than do actual works to help. The antihero is filled with egoism. He has to look down on others, but he also needs their attention and approval. How can he know he is wonderful unless others tell him? He loathes them because he needs them. This vanity destroys capacity for social union because he is much better than them. He has the chance to open himself up possibly for the first time in his life to a prostitute, it frightens him, and re runs back to his insanity to remain safely there.

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