The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In Dostoevsky’s The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, the short story opens with the narrator claiming to be a mad man. He’s aware that he’s ridiculous, and he wishes that everyone around him knew that he knows he is ridiculous. Out to dinner with friends one night, he decides to kill himself. He’s been thinking about doing it for two months, but hasn’t had the passion yet to do it. He ignores a girl on the street asking for her help with what the narrator assumes is her dying mother, and instead goes up to his apartment. He sits up and thinks about killing himself and reflects on why he didn’t help the little girl and how this has affected his decision to not yet kill himself; he had intentionally ignored her, he says, because he should feel nothing if he is going to die. Instead, he felt a pang when he ignored her, and this means he is not yet ready to kill himself.

He sleeps and dreams that he kills himself and then is taken from his grave and is flying with someone to the sun and then back to Earth—or a planet that is similar to Earth. He dreamed of people filled with love:

Well, granted that it was only a dream, yet the sensation of the love of those innocent and beautiful people has remained with me for ever, and I feel as though their love is still flowing out to me from over there.

His presence in this idyllic place causes them to learn to lie, and there land is forever tainted; they lie, they fight, they hurt animals, they kill.
The narrator wakes and is determined to change. He has seen the goodness in people and wants to bring that out in everyone. He says:

The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that's the chief thing, and that's everything; nothing else is wanted—you will find out at once how to arrange it all.

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