The Human Paradox


Human Inconsistency: Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground
Prof. Qasim Ghazanfar
ENG215-OBC
Gillorie Myrthil
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