September 11, 2016 | In: Uncategorized

How Dostoyevsky predicted narcissism

Fyodor Dostoyevsky is undoubtedly most known for his magnum opus, Crime and Punishment. However, he has written several other masterpieces- my personal favourite is one of his first works, Notes from Underground, which was the beginning to what I like to call Dostoyevsky’s existentialism. It was the beginnings to a completely new era of modern philosophical literature that would seduce Europe, with him as its founding father. Decades before narcissism even would become a psychological concept, Dostoyevsky perfectly encaptured it with his main character in Notes from the Underground. The novella is written out of the main character’s perspective, a foul 40-something old man, the first part of the book being his diary where he contemplates his own life and himself, and the second part figuring him as anti-hero, narrator and first person.

Dostoyevsky’s own reflections on Nihilism and rationalism are excellently, concealed in the message of the main character’s mere ramblings, but Dostoyevsky also unknowingly perfectly describes a psychological phenomenon, which we connote most commonly with the modern, 21th century man- pure narcissism. The Underground Man, as the main character is called, takes pleasure in being ruthlessly honest, rude or condescending towards his fellow man. He constantly whines about different afflictions he refuses to do anything about, happy with having something to complain about and suffer from. He embraces the weird and disturbed nature of himself and the universe surrounding him, ravelling in being decrepit and refusing to better himself to become more like “ordinary men” as, they too, disgust him. Page after page the reader is showered with his self-doubts, arrogance, self-hatred and insecurities- he is seemingly obsessed with his self-image and how he is perceived. Once again, a typical example of narcissism. But the amazing this is the realisation when you as a reader understands that the Underground man is not just a despicable man, but a reflection of any person’s mind, taken to its extreme. The Underground Man is a caricature of several different stereotypes that can be found in modern society as easily as it could be found in the 1800’s. He reflects both the typical Alpha male at the same time as the Beta Male. He is eager to push weaker people down, to highlight his own strengths and make him seem like the better person, but he can also be the weak, unsecure and fragile Beta Male that could easily be hurt by other people (and with wounded pride, never forgive them).

In short, Notes from the Underground might as well be called Notes for your Psychology test, as it pinpoints all the symptoms of narcissism, in a ground-breaking manner for a book written before narcissism was even a concept.