The Man Who Lived Underground Analysis

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Underground Men’s Eloquence and Ellipses

The stream-of-consciousness modernist novel is incomplete without ellipses. In Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, they are a marker of the nameless protagonist’s immense interiority; yet in Wright’s rewriting of the novel, they are a sign of the protagonist’s failure to communicate with those aboveground. From this distinction, Wright diverges from existentialism to a discourse on the condition of the marginalised.
In Notes from the Underground, ellipses serve as a deliberate reminder to the reader of the stream-of-consciousness nature of the novel, and as a result, create the illusion that the reader has direct access to the mind of the Underground Man before he has time to process and self-censor …show more content…

The ellipsis in the line, “he could send a bullet into that man’s brain and time would be over for him…” (50) represents both the freedom in the underground and the crisis of morality to which it gives rise. As Carla Cappetti points out in “Black Orpheus: Richard Wright’s ‘The Man Who Lived Underground,’” in his three-day rendezvous in the underground, Fred Daniels becomes godly by reinventing selfhood and the world in relation. His reconnection with the aboveground world, to share what he has found, knowing the death sentence that it would mean, is therefore, in stark contrast to the Underground Man, a selfless act out of a Christ-like love for …show more content…

Having invented a whole world in the underground, “his entire being [is] full of what he [wants] to say to them,” (69) but without the proper words, he is left with meaningless ellipses. Fragmented speech only serves to widen, as Cappetti describes, “the insurmountable abyss” that is “separating Fred Daniels and the rest of humanity.” Cappetti also points out that it is Fred Daniels’ rejection of all aboveground values, including language, that renders him incapable of eloquent speech. Yet in the same situation, Dostoevsky’s Underground Man is not only fully capable of expressing himself, language becomes his sole asset that allows him a way back into the aboveground and society. Although he ultimately rejects it in favour of solitude under the floorboards, the choice is still there. Whilst it is evident that it is during the transition from the underground to the aboveground that Fred Daniels forgets his own name, without dialogue from the past as comparison, it remains a mystery whether his time in the underground is culprit in robbing him of his capacity for rational speech. However, as a minority, as a poor man and a black man, it is unlikely that he ever had access to the same literature and education that formed the foundation of the Underground Man’s massive intellect. Thus, as Fred

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