Dostoevsky Essay

This essay has a total of 1522 words and 8 pages.

Dostoevsky

Thesis: Dostoevsky's manic and depressive episodes aided in his ability to
properly illustrate the workings of the human mind, through his writing.

Outline: I. Introduction II. What is Manic Depression and Depression? III. Other

Writers with Mental Illnesses IV. Dostoevsky's Life V. Analysis of
"Notes┘" VI. Conclusion Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, author
of several acclaimed books-including "Notes From Underground"-a
semi-autobiographical story, introduced a new form of writing,
"stream-of-consciousness", to Russia and Europe. Soon, this form of
writing that would become the mark of the Existentialist, spread to the

America's. Interestingly enough, the "stream-of-consciousness" that
manifested itself in his writing was actually the product of a mood disorder,
which can be characterized by intensely emotional thoughts. Caught in a rift of
contrasting thoughts, the Manic-Depressive-commonly endowed with superior
artistic abilities, can be very insightful to the ways of man. Manic-depression
can clinically be defined as a mood disorder with two contrasting states: mania
and depression. There must be an occurrence of one or more Manic or Mixed
episodes and often, the individual has also had one or more Major Depressive
episodes in the past. In Manic-Depressive disorder, also known as Bipolar
disorder, the manic and depressive episodes recur in varying degrees of
intensity. The DSM-IV describes Manic and Depressive episodes as: "The
essential feature is a distinct period when the predominant mood is either
elevated, expansive or irritable, and when there are associated symptoms of the
manic syndrome." These symptoms include hyperactivity, pressure of speech,
flight of ideas, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep,
distractibility, and excessive involvement in activities that have a high
potential for painful consequences, which are not recognized. The manual
describes depressive episodes as: "The essential feature is either a
dysphoric mood, usually depression, or loss of interest or pleasure in most
usual activities and pass-times. This disturbance is prominent, relatively
persistent, and associated with other symptoms of the depressive syndrome."

These symptoms include appetite disturbance, change in weight, sleep
disturbance, psychomotor agitation or retardation, decreased energy, feelings of
worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating or thinking, and thoughts of
death or suicide, or suicidal attempts. Manic Depression is also due to a
biochemical imbalance in the brain. These biochemical reactions include the
"increasing and decreasing of intra- and extracellular sodium, chloride,
and potassium (Beck 65)." The inclining and declining of these functions
support the contrasting manic and depressive moods. "The spirit of genius
no free-floating, absolute power, but is strictly bound to the laws of
biochemistry and the endocrine glands." This again credits the idea that
manic-depression can stimulate artistry. Though it is difficult to prove

Manic-Depressive disorder among those who have passed away, the occurrence of
this behavior and has been traced through letters written to friends and family,
and personal accounts. Creative people, such as Keats, Woolf, and Dostoevsky,
have been named among those who had this illness. Keats's notes and letters were
evidence of his violent mood swings; his surgery lecture notes, embellished with
many impromptu sketches in the margins were evidence of his wide-ranging
interests, and also of his mercurial nature. Woolf became violent and delusional
in her manic episodes, and when she was in a depressive state, she barely spoke
or ate, and attempted suicide. Born in the hospital for the poor, Dostoevsky was
the second of seven children. He led a happy and peaceful childhood where he
held particular warm feelings towards his family. "It is not abnormal for
one with the Manic-depressive syndrome to live a life of normalcy┘ that
is, of course, until an element of unpleasantry enters his life (Ostow

82)." His father, murdered by his own serfs, had a hot tempered and
irritable state of mind. His mother, described as tender and sensitive with a
literary and musical talent, died when Fyodor was fifteen-years-old. After
graduating from St. Petersburg's Academy of Military Engineers as lieutenant, he
was assigned to a military department. Dostoevsky worked there for one year
before he realized that working in a department gave him no satisfaction, and
that he wanted to write and work as an author. Later, he became acquainted with
the utopian socialist group, for which he seemed to have become strongman. This
association got him four years in Siberian prison. After a four-year stay at the

Siberian prison, he married a widow and later regained his rights as a nobleman.

Periods of relative prosperity and happiness stopped abruptly Dostoevsky's wife
and brother died. He was left alone with his brother's debts, and was resorted
to gambling as a way out from economic difficulties. Except for the last ten
years, the Dostoevsky family suffered from economical difficulties caused by
brother's debts, an always-begging stepson and Fyodor's gambling spree. They
also were extremely unlucky regarding their three children. Like Dostoevsky's
life, his writing contained many avenues down which one could lose his- or
herself. He begins his two-part "Notes From Underground" with a stream
of ironies, a forewarning to the reader of what lies ahead. Seemingly unfocused
and ambiguous, it is possible to see through his writing, and detect his
manic-depression in his style. An obvious example of this is the terminal
confusion in his writing: "I am a sick man... I am a week man. An
unattractive man. I think my liver hurts. However, I don't know a fig about my
sickness, and am not sure what it is that hurts me. I am not being treated and
never have been, though I respect medicine and doctors. What's more, I am also
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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