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Antiheroism in Notes from the Underground

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The present research has identified that The Underground Man goes on to challenge the conventional hero by stating that: A novel needs a hero, and all the traits for an anti-hero are expressly gathered together here, and what matters most, it all produces an unpleasant impression, for we are all divorced from life, we are all cripples, every one of us, more or less. We are so divorced from it that we feel at once a sort of loathing for real life, and so cannot bear to be reminded of it.

In other words, the dictates that prescribe the life and the desires of a hero are unrealistic and any attempt to achieve the idealized path of heroism is hard work. If man were, to be honest, he would have to admit that “ real life an effort, almost as hard as work” and everyone would agree if they were honest that life is “ better in books” .  In this regard, by not admitting this reality, we are all segregated from life.   The Underground Man is an antihero because he at least recognizes this fact and embraces the mendacity of real life.

The Underground Man’ s withdrawal from the world is paralleled by antihero in Ralph Ellison’ s Invisible Man.   Both anti-heroes are narrating in confessional terms and both reflect some degree of humiliation and dissatisfaction with the realities of life and are to some extent driven underground.   The Underground Man’ s underground foray is more symbolic in that it is both literal and mental.   The antihero of Ellison’ s Invisible Man goes underground in the literal sense.   The first retreats to a cellar while the race riots in Harlem are taking place, then he retreats to a basement and meditates.

In both novels, the antiheroes represent a retreat from a world they find it impossible to conform to.   The Invisible Man’ s narrator is unable to conform to the dominant White culture and its prescriptions for the Negro American and the conventions of heroism.   Likewise, the Underground Man resists the prescriptions for mankind and the conventions of heroism imported by the dominant culture from Western Europe.

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