Is "Notes from the Underground" by Dostoevsky a tragedy?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one can look at the ideas presented in Dostoevsky's work as one where tragedy is present.  The tragic condition in this novel is one where individuals seek to appropriate the world around them in accordance to their own subjectivity, only to find despair and pain as a result.  This is enhanced by the narrator figure.  While he is obviously intelligent and insightful, while he is well read and quite perceptive about his own sense of self and the world, he is limited in what he can do within it.  While science and progress envelops his world, rationality cannot save the narrator from the reality that he feels powerless despite free will.  The narrator is presented as a modernist tragic figure, one who is unable to pinpoint the source of his unhappiness, yet knowing that he is unhappy.  In this light, I would say that tragedy is present in that individuals find themselves at the pitch of prosperity, replete with free will and autonomy, and yet are incapable of being able to find happiness in their lives or their world.

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