Notes from Underground is more of a realist critique of romantic literature than it is a romantic work in and of itself. The work seems to deny its hero a sense of the sublime or the sense of meaning that many romantic works engendered. Instead, the Underground Man reads romantic...
Notes from Underground is more of a realist critique of romantic literature than it is a romantic work in and of itself. The work seems to deny its hero a sense of the sublime or the sense of meaning that many romantic works engendered. Instead, the Underground Man reads romantic literature and fashions his own social persona after the heroes he encounters in those works. He fails spectacularly due to his own cynicism and rather anti-sublime attitude: he sees the world as ugly and meaningless, though he would much prefer to be a romantic.
For example, the romantics championed social equality, especially the inherent equality of social outcasts. The Underground Man claims to do so as well. In the tavern, he tries to speak to the soldier as an equal despite the social gulf between them, but stops because he fears ridicule, especially when he considers using the kind of language commonly encountered in romantic fiction:
You can't allude to the "point of honour" in ordinary language. I was fully convinced (the sense of reality, in spite of all my romanticism!) that they would all simply split their sides with laughter, and that the officer would not simply beat me, that is, without insulting me, but would certainly prod me in the back with his knee, kick me round the billiard-table, and only then perhaps have pity and drop me out of the window.
Realism overtakes his supposed romantic ideals, which would describe this novel as a whole.
As a work of realism, Notes of Underground is one of the most important entries in the movement. Realist novels sought to portray life as experienced by everyday, common people rather than by the larger-than-life figures which tended to people romantic fiction. The plain, socially awkward Underground Man is certainly the opposite of romantic heroes like Frankenstein's Creature. Ultimately, romanticism cannot survive in the harsh world of the Underground Man.