The Stranger Within: Dostoevsky's Underground
In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s influential novel, Notes from Underground, we find one of the most memorable characters in 19th century literature. The Underground Man, around whom everything else in this book revolves, is in some respects utterly repugnant: he is self-centred, obsessive and cruel. Yet he is also highly intelligent, honest and reflective, and he has suffered significantly at the hands of others. Reading Notes from Underground can be a harrowing experience but also an educative one, for in an encounter with what at first seems unfamiliar and disorienting we can awaken the ‘stranger within’. Dostoevsky’s work, if we are ready for it, can shake us from our slumbers and allow us to see that what appears to be strange may in fact be deeply familiar to us.