After reading the first chapter, two things stick out. 1, how the narrator wishes the policeman had been kind to him and taken up for him. I wonder if existentialism was the precursor to psychotherapy which later developed to include not only introspection, but parental influence. This story makes me think that Dostoyevsky may have wished for a father figure to accept and respect him. Could this perceived deprivation be the cause of his feelings of alienation?
And 2, Dostoyevsky’s distinction between European and Russian Romanticism. I’ll let Sparknotes summarize it: “the Underground Man discusses the nature of Russian Romanticism, which he claims is not “translunary” like German or French Romanticism. Russian Romanticism is “to see everything, and to see often incomparably more clearly than our very most positive minds do.” Generally, the Russian form of Romanticism is open-minded and practical, concerned with the preservation of “the beautiful and lofty” but also with an eye for self-preservation. The Russian Romantic does not seem to let his Romanticism get in the way of his career: he “wouldn’t lift a finger for his ideal” yet believes in this ideal steadfastly. He is at once “loftily honest” and a “scoundrel.””