The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a short story written by Russian classic Fyodor Dostoevsky. It was first published in 1877 in a periodic edition, “The Writer’s Diary” (Dostoevsky 5). The writer defined the genre of the narrative as a fantastic story. The plot is twisted around a young man who decided to commit suicide but was not bold enough to do that and fell asleep instead of killing himself. He dreamt of the world without malice, envy, and jealousy that later transformed, leaving all the happiness and kindness behind. After waking up, the young man felt that the dream had changed him, so he did not want to die anymore. The story is interesting to analyze since it addresses many different issues relevant to today’s society.
The Dream of a Ridiculous Man addresses different themes that usually appear in Dostoevsky’s writings. Though the story is relatively short, it considers such topics as establishing universal truth, the protagonist’s indifference towards everything he sees, suicide, and thoughts and motives that precede it. However, the story’s central theme is the theme of the utopian world the main character sees in his dream. The story’s idea is that the world is not ideal enough for people to wait for good things and events, but it is not bad so that they would like to leave it. It is expressed in the fifth chapter: “… all are making for the same goal, all are striving in the same direction anyway, from the sage to the lowest robber, only by different roads.” (Dostoevsky 28). Kindness and evil are inseparable and coexist in the same dimension. Hence, everyone has to make the choice that will guide his life.
The Narrative Style
The story is narrated in the first person. It means that the narrator’s persona is combined with the author’s one. In that case, the author’s thoughts and ideas are expressed by the protagonist, and it is hard to distinguish them. Writers usually use first-person narration to focus on a particular person’s worldview and how he perceives reality. This style of narration in The Dream of a Ridiculous Man helps the audience feel the protagonist’s emotions: “… I shall shoot myself. I knew that I should shoot myself that night for certain…” (Dostoevsky 9). However, they change throughout the story: “… ecstasy, immeasurable ecstasy flooded my soul. Yes, life and spreading the good tidings!” (Dostoevsky, 25). As it is seen from the examples, the protagonist’s absolute desperation at the beginning transforms into happiness and love at the end of the story.
The Image of the Dream
The protagonist’s dream may be considered rather utopian than fantastic. In his dream, the ridiculous man sees the ideal world where he would like to live. The protagonist’s mistake lies in the fact that he perceives reality from only one angle. His fantasies reflect the utopian reality where exists only immeasurable love among people. However, the dream demonstrates that the world is not ideal since, after the picture of pure kindness, the character observes the image of vice and malice. The dream shows that the world cannot be regarded as good or bad, and this idea changes the protagonist’s life: “… my dream — oh, it revealed to me a different life, renewed, grand and full of power!” (Dostoevsky 15). Hence, the protagonist changes making choices towards kindness and love.
The Dream of a Ridiculous Man by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a classical literature work that addresses different problems in any society. Though it was written in the 19th century, the story remains relevant since the problems the world faces today are the same. The story helps people see that the world cannot be regarded as either good or bad since kindness and malice coexist in it, and it is up to people themselves to choose their path.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. Read Books Limited, 2019.