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Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘Notes from Underground’: The complex that forced the underground man to withdraw

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  1. Introduction.
    1. Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel, Notes from Underground.
    2. Inferiority complex.
  2. Two recognized manifestations of an inferiority complex.
    1. Aggressive tactics.
    2. Withdrawal tactics.
  3. Underground Man's preoccupation with romanticizing a situation.
  4. Underground Man's arrival at the brothel.
  5. Rationalizing the event.
  6. The actions of the Underground Man.
  7. Conclusion - The inferiority complex of the Underground Man and the interactions of every day life.

Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel, Notes from Underground, centers on an anonymous narrator who shows signs of an inferiority complex and as a result becomes preoccupied with his own purpose and self worth. He becomes so obsessed with adding meaning to his life that fantasies often take over in order to add drama to situations. Evidence of this is found in his fantasized interaction with a certain officer, in his hysterical and overly dramatic clash with a friend, and in his idealized relationship with a prostitute, Liza. These interactions are critical to understanding what drove this man to isolation. Due to being afflicted with an inferiority complex, these incidents build up until this final interaction with Liza stresses the Underground Man to the limit and forces him to retreat underground.

[...] The Underground Man goes on to fantasize about confronting the officer who ignored him. In this fantasy he writes a letter to the officer, begging him to apologize. He then goes on to imagine the officer's response and fantasizes that they will become close friends. This fantasy goes on for pages before he dismisses the prospect. Lin explains that those afflicted with an inferiority complex compensate for this using several defense mechanisms. One of the more common forms of compensation is to retreat from reality, where the subject substitutes fantasy (Lin 7). [...]


[...] She then gives a look that the Underground Man describes as look of children when they are asking for something from somebody they love. Hers were hazel eyes, full of life and capable of reflecting both love and sullen hatred? (Dostoyevsky 101). His berating and making her feel worthless results in her dependence on him. An inferiority complex often presents with a disorder known as Histrionic Disorder. In a summary of Histrionic Personality Disorder, Dr. Phillip Long Ph.D. notes that those diagnosed with Histrionic Personality Disorder seek to control their partner through emotional manipulation or seductiveness on one level, whereas displaying a marked dependency on them at another level.? Also, characteristic of this disorder is the compulsion to play out a role, as those diagnosed crave novelty (Long). [...]


[...] She embraces and tries to care for him but ashamed that the roles have been reversed, the Underground Man feels compelled to once again be the dominant one in the relationship. He again manipulates Liza, who mistakes this for genuine love and compassion. The two again sleep together and while she believes this to be an expression of their love, his plan is to use this as a means to control her sexually and then humiliate her again by treating her as a common prostitute. [...]

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