The Human Paradox Essay

This essay has a total of 1639 words and 10 pages.

The Human Paradox

Human Inconsistency: Dostoevsky's "Notes From Underground"

Prof. Qasim Ghazanfar
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.


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
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