Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 966
The short story opens with the narrator describing himself as a ridiculous person. Everyone knows him to be ridiculous and ridicules him for it, but no one more severely than himself.
I have always been ridiculous, and I have known it, perhaps, from the hour I was born. Perhaps from the time I was seven years old I knew I was ridiculous. Afterwards I went to school, studied at the university, and, do you know, the more I learned, the more thoroughly I understood that I was ridiculous.
He states that the one thing that annoys him more than anything else is people not realizing that he understands as much as them how ridiculous he is.
Everyone always laughed at me. But not one of them knew or guessed that if there were one man on earth who knew better than anybody else that I was absurd, it was myself, and what I resented most of all was that they did not know that.
As he continues with his explanation, the reader starts to understand that he cuts a ridiculous figure because from his view life is ridiculous and he refuses to play by its rules.
. . . the conviction that had come upon me that nothing in the world mattered. I had long had an inkling of it, but the full realisation came last year almost suddenly. I suddenly felt that it was all the same to me whether the world existed or whether there had never been anything at all: I began to feel with all my being that there was nothing existing.
At this point in the story, the narrator paints himself as a nihilist.
I suddenly felt that it was all the same to me whether the world existed or whether there had never been anything at all: I began to feel with all my being that there was nothing existing. At first I fancied that many things had existed in the past, but afterwards I guessed that there never had been anything in the past either, but that it had only seemed so for some reason. Little by little I guessed that there would be nothing in the future either.
Ironically, it this realization that seems to have lead him to accept who he is as a person and given his life some sort of meaning.
Then I left off being angry with people and almost ceased to notice them . . . I gave up caring about anything, and all the problems disappeared. And it was after that that I found out the truth.
This is the first sign that he is not the uncaring person he had once presumed himself to be. After he rejects the pleas of a young girl, he starts questioning the meaning of his life.
One reflection followed another. I saw clearly that so long as I was still a human being and not nothingness, I was alive and so could suffer, be angry and feel shame at my actions.
This revelation is followed by a dream about a society where people, animals and nature live together in harmony.
Oh, everything was exactly as it is with us, only everything seemed to have a festive radiance, the splendour of some great, holy triumph attained at last. The caressing sea, green as emerald, splashed softly upon the shore and kissed it with manifest, almost conscious love. The tall, lovely trees stood in all the glory of their blossom, and their innumerable leaves greeted me, I am certain, with their soft, caressing rustle and seemed to articulate words of love. The grass glowed with bright and fragrant flowers. Birds were flying in flocks in the air, and perched fearlessly on my shoulders and arms and joyfully struck me with their darling, fluttering wings.
For the first time he feels true love.
(The entire section contains 966 words.)
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