The Underground Man
The Underground man in Dostoevsky’s Notes From The Underground is a character that has the characteristics of a social outcast, and shows how those characteristics cause his isolation. He is isolated from society in his thoughts and actions, as well as his appearance. He is bitter towards society, but it also seems that he is bitter towards himself. He is “wicked… self-loathing.” He hates society for not giving him pure freedom, but he also loathes himself for not being a part of society, for being an outcast.
His strange relationship with society is evident in the contradictory actions and thoughts that he has. He has a hateness for society, yet he seems to care too much about which way he steps when walking towards another man at the park. He desires the friendship and affection of some school aquaintances as he follows them to dinner, yet he also openly insults them. These contradicting actions exacerbate the situation that he has- wanting to be a part of society, but hating it for that very reason. He is the social outcast that will never understand how to harmonize himself with society.
Lady of Shalott
This poem shows the dynamic between the isolated artist and society. The Lady of Shalott sits at the top of a tall tower in solitary and weaves “a magic web of colors gay.” There is a “curse” that will fall upon her if she looks out the window onto Camelot, but we do not know what this curse is, or if it even exists. Because of its ambiguity, I am lead to believe that this curse is something she made up in her head. She looks at the world through reflections in her mirror, instead of directly through the window. This displays a skewed view of reality, not looking at reality but literally a reflection of it.
The dynamic between the artist’s confidence with her expression and opening that up to society is present with the Lady of Shallot and her isolation from society. I can somewhat relate to this, as it sometimes feels more comfortable to keep your artwork to yourself and not bring it in for critique or discussion. Art that is made in privacy is much different than art that is made for the public to see.