The narrator of this story is completely alienated from the society around him, so much so that he considers himself living underground, like a mouse or an insect. He has no social skills and often becomes either so obsessed with an idea or so tangled in his emotional reactions that he cannot communicate his thoughts or feelings. He lives in his fantasy world or gets lost in books, so when he does try to communicate he is not sure if the sentiments he is expressing are his or if they come from his imagination. No one understands him, he thinks. He also believes that he is much more intelligent than everyone else, which further alienates him. He wants to be honored and loved, and he believes that people should do this for him merely because he was born with the ability to think deeply. When they don’t, he puts up emotional walls and becomes defensive, thus increasing the alienation not only inside of him but also in those with whom he wants to communicate.
The theme of alienation is a major part of this story, possibly Dostoevsky’s way of demonstrating that people cannot be departmentalized into neat little packages and turned into cogs in the machinery of a scientific and mathematical society. Ultimately, part of a human being’s free will is the right to alienate himself or herself.
The narrator frequently contradicts himself, at one point saying that he believes one statement to be true and then immediately changing his beliefs in the next paragraph. He makes statements such as he is sick and he thinks it is his liver that is ailing. Then in the next breath, he says that he was lying and in fact has no idea what is ailing him. He also says that he despises someone, but a few sentences later he says he is envious of him or her. He appears to want love, but he destroys the only chance for that love.
The theme of contradiction is used to show the limitations of logic. The narrator states that as soon as he thinks of something, like beauty, he immediately is reminded of its opposite. His rational mind continues to probe a concept until that concept is flipped on its head. It is through contradiction that Dostoevsky attempts to show the weaknesses in a philosophy that bases everything on logic and reason. Humans have brains that are capable of analyzing, but they also have an irrational and emotional side that does not function according to a mathematical formula that eliminates contradiction.
Despair completely surrounds the narrator in this story. The basis of the narrator’s despair lies in the fact that he is incapable of action. He becomes lost in his thoughts to the point that he cannot progress. However, the narrator points out that...
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