Monday, 21 October 2019

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

In his short story, “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” Fyodor Dostoevsky looks at the issues related to human perfectibility and the possibility of a utopia. The story’s unnamed narrator thinks of himself as a ridiculous man and he is convinced that others see him in the same way. He decides to commit suicide and buys a gun with the intention of shooting himself in the head. But the chance encounter with a troubled girl makes him postpone his suicide.

That day when he falls asleep, he dreams that he has shot himself in the heart and has died. However, he continues to be aware of his surroundings. There is a funeral and he is buried, after an unknown period of time, his body is exhumed from the grave by a mysterious figure who soars with him into the space. They go to a new planet which is like earth in most respects—the only difference is that here the human beings are perfect creatures and they lead a happy, blissful, sinless life in a utopia. One day the narrator accidentally teaches them the way of lying and then starts the process of corruption of the utopia which soon becomes exactly like earth.

Here’s an excerpt from Dostoevsky's “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”:

“Then there arose men who began to think how to bring all people together again, so that everybody, while still loving himself best of all, might not interfere with others, and all might live together in something like a harmonious society. Regular wars sprang up over this idea. All the combatants at the same time firmly believed that science, wisdom and the instinct of self-preservation would force men at last to unite into a harmonious and rational society; and so, meanwhile, to hasten matters, ‘the wise’ endeavored to exterminate as rapidly as possible all who were ‘not wise’ and did not understand their idea, that the latter might not hinder its triumph.”

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