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Suffering and Choice in "Dream of a Ridiculous Man" by Fyodor Dostoevsky

When Albert Camus wrote The Myth of Sisyphus [1], he demonstrated the absurdity of human existence in the indifferent universe with the ridiculous job of pushing a rock up a hill an infinite quantity of times. Each and every time Sisyphus pushed the rock to the prime of the hill, it only rolled back down for him to do it once more. This is the very fundamental thought underlying Existentialism. A lot like Sisyphus of the ancient myth, humans live a meaningless existence practically nothing implies something when all that is specific is death. It is therefore ridiculous to reside with out such a realization, or otherwise with an illusion of meaning and goal. Yet humans continue to reside and assign value to their day-to-day activities, even against the reality that death is inevitable. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s brief story The Dream of a Ridiculous Man accounts for the absurdity of human existence portrayed by Albert Camus and demonstrates what it is to be truly ridiculous, however also suggests a solution. We humans must understand that we both have the capacity to pick the life we live, and that finish outcomes could not matter as significantly as we assume.

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote The Dream of a Ridiculous Man from a politically, socially, and spiritually troubled 19th century Russia. Life under the Russian regime is key in Dostoevsky writings, and The Dream of the Ridiculous Man is no exception. The story reflects the suffering and alienation of the Russian society and explores the psychology of the character shaped by the society. Dostoevsky nevertheless, supplies consolation and hope at the end of the story as he believes there is purity and goodness at the end of suffering and despair (Bourgeois). The story also includes elements of Dostoevsky’s philosophical college of thought, Existentialism. Meaning in life, absurdity, suicide, as properly as confronting mortality and the anxiety of decision are fundamental basis in The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. The story is also richly influenced with Orthodox Christianity. Dostoevsky references the bible, creating alternate interpretations of Genesis, portrays the narrator as Adam, later as the Serpent, and then as Jesus, and explores religious ideas such as the Problem of Evil and Fall of Man (Cassedy). These influences play in to the story and at least in component explain or provide the context for the character’s ridiculous existence, suicidal intentions, and ultimately the revelation to reside and do great by option.

The narrator of The Dream of a Ridiculous Man admits he is living an absurd existence and finds no evidence of the contrary. He explains that “he has always been ridiculous, and he has recognized it” (Dostoevsky, pg. three), not only distinguishing himself from other humans, but also distinguishing humanity from other species. Humans are the only living creatures aware of their ultimate fate, and that knowledge is what tends to make their existence far more absurd than any other. The narrator’s acknowledgment of this is crucial in the Existentialist believed. The narrator also reveals that earlier in his life when he was attending the university, “the a lot more he discovered, the more he understood he was ridiculous…in the end, the sciences he studied existed only to prove he was ridiculous” (pg. three). The narrator does not know exactly when he became ridiculous, but he comes to comprehend that he has often been ridiculous and it does not matter when he realized it first. As the story continues, he grows ever more indifferent to life, and finds only more proof of the absurdity of human existence with his buddies, neighbors, and strangers.

The conversation in between the narrator’s pals that follows only reinforces the narrator’s beliefs. They are arguing for the sake of argument, and are fully detached from the subject they speak of. Their conversation is meaningless and their enthusiasm a pretense as they do not understand the emotions and opinions they profess. When the narrator tells his buddies that they do not genuinely care for their argument, they only discover his remark amusing. This conversation demonstrates the idea that absolutely nothing matters in life, and therefore the only passion for undertaking something that exists is fake. The narrator realizes that, but he speaks with indifference when he attempts to reproach his buddies. The narrator also shows indifference in his apartment developing. He says there is shouting and fighting in 1 of his neighbor’s apartment just behind the wall, but he shows no annoyance or concern. The narrator merely “does not care how considerably they shout on the other side of the partition or how a lot of of them there are in there: he sits up all evening and forgets them so entirely that he does not hear the noise anymore” (pg. 6). An encounter with a small girl reveals that the narrator maintains his beliefs. When the tiny girl asks the narrator for his aid, he motives that the stranger he is asked to support will die nonetheless. Turning his back on humanity, the narrator demonstrates his additional indifference and ambivalence to life, his or other. If every little thing in life is ridiculous then there is no reason he should aid the stranger. The narrator primarily finds his existence ridiculous and there is no evidence of the contrary anywhere in his life. There is only absurdity and indifference, and so the narrator decides to commit suicide, but he falls asleep.

The narrator’s dream is a fundamental alter in The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. It is a vision or a revelation that teaches the narrator of the accurate absurdity of human existence, and creates a dramatic adjust in the narrator’s life. He goes from committing suicide to preaching what he believes is the truth. The dream itself not only puts the paradise that the narrator visits and his world in juxtaposition, but also parallels ultimate good with understanding of very good and evil. The paradise, or the earth just before the Fall of Man, is cost-free from all that is evil and shameless it is a utopia exactly where each and every resident is innocent and content. With the narrator’s presence however, the paradise is cursed with the very same fate as Eden was on Earth. The narrator corrupts the paradise with information by introducing lies, sexual debauchery, jealousy, murder, factions, nationalism, war, and so on. (pg. 19). He brings an finish to the ideal happiness and ultimate very good of individuals of the paradise, but at the exact same time he provides them humanity, information, and option. The folks of the paradise lack the ability to pick their life, and that is no life at all. What the narrator primarily gives them is the most human point of all, the ability to pick.

The narrator learns that expertise and the potential to decide on is far far more meaningful then life itself. The men and women of the paradise are merely instinctual creatures, carrying out excellent, but having no capability to explanation or decide on to do very good. There is no evidence that living a very good life is any far better than living a undesirable life or an indifferent life, however the folks of the paradise are exclusive to only that a single choice, 1 option among 3. There is practically nothing that can be much more ridiculous then to reside a good, moral life above any other when in the finish the good and the poor will both meet the identical fate, and each will be specifically equal. Living a great, moral life is not a necessary element of human existence. The information that there is a selection, and the understanding that all choices are equal is the essential to any happiness. The narrator explains that the folks of the paradise “would not want to return to the paradise” (pg. 20), and then the narrator himself admits “he loves the earth they have polluted far more then the paradise” (pg. 21). Indeed, the information and the capacity to decide on are greater than any life in paradise. The narrator and the individuals of the paradise understand that if men do excellent it should be due to the fact they can do great all by themselves, due to the fact they can decide on to do very good by their personal conscious understanding. The narrator summarizes this truth when he wakes up “the chief point is to love other individuals like yourself, that is the chief thing” (pg. 22). The narrator is a changed man now, not only does he cherish life, but he goes from attempting suicide to a life where he preaches the truth and atones his previous blunders. He finds meaning and objective, and there is no mention of a God or an afterlife. The narrator learns that “he can be beautiful and happy with no losing the energy of living on earth” (pg. 22), that is, he is motivated to do good purely by his personal picking, not by the guarantee of eternal life or a paradise.

Dostoevsky’s The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a short story that confirms the absurdity of human existence and offers some thought to suicide as a viable response, but at the exact same time demonstrates that happiness and meaning can be attained in this world if a single understands that one need to do very good by his own conscious picking. Dostoevsky’s implications nonetheless go beyond this. The story is also a comment on Christianity, and in particular Eden or the paradise. The Dream of the Ridiculous Man appears to suggest that a “paradise or an afterlife will never ever come to be” (pg. 22), due to the fact an eternity of unconsciously doing only good is inhuman. Consciousness of life is higher than life, and the paradise is an automatic, robotic life deprived of consciousness. The capability to decide on certainly gives life consciousness and possibly the brief life on earth is worth more than an eternity in paradise, as Dostoevsky implies. In the story, Dostoevsky also comments on the evolution of civilization. The paradise in the narrator’s vision appears to take on the exact same history as that of humanity on earth. Initial there is a paradise, next is corruption, and then mankind spends the next thousands of years understanding how to be satisfied once again. The distinction is that when mankind learns the truth, in that they will do excellent and be happy, they will have arrived at it consciously. This evolution of civilization probably only attempts to recapture the goodness and happiness of the paradise, but it also far more importantly gains consciousness in the procedure. Dostoevsky stresses that it is this consciousness, the information, the capacity to pick that provides any sense to life.

In Dostoevsky’s conception, humanity has not regressed from paradise, but progressed. God has provided us the potential to do excellent, we have provided ourselves the ability to choose to do great. We have come from becoming unconscious, instinctive and mechanical automatons, to conscious human begins with the capacity not only to be genuinely content, but also the expertise of the laws of happiness. We ought to do good not due to the fact it could or might not be rewarded by God who may or might not exist, but since we can do very good regardless of God and an afterlife. We are merely human beings on this earth who can only conquer the absurdity of our own existence when we recognize that our conscious thoughts transcends every little thing.


Bourgeois, Patrick, Lyall. “Dostoevsky and Existentialism.“ Journal of Thought (1980): 29-38. Philosopher’s Index. EBSCO. Web. five Might 2010.

Cassedy, Steven. “Dostoevsky’s Religion.” Studies in East European Thought (2007): 163-165. Philosopher’s Index. EBSCO. Net.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. Feedbooks. Published: 1877. PDF File. <>
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