Written Comparison and Contrast Essay Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky vs. The Guest by Albert Camus

It is known that Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Albert Camus are two famous writers who made a great contribution to the development of the world literature. Today their literary works are studied in schools and universities because they contain different philosophical themes and give the opportunity to the students to express their thoughts and ideas. In their literary works, both Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Albert Camus pay special attention to human nature and the meaning of life. They portray strange personalities with their individual characters and world outlook. Dostoyevsky and Camus develop such themes as the theme of isolation or alienation, the search for meaning of life, etc. The novel Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky and the short story The Guest by Camus discuss human personalities, their behaviors and ideas in specific situations. These literary works have very much in common, but at the same time, there are many differences between them. The major goal of this paper is to compare and contrast two literary works: Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and The Guest by Albert Camus.

In the novel Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky represents a lonely and self-isolated man who seems has spent about twenty years of his life underground and who has been alone almost all his life. It is found that his isolation is his own desire. The main peculiarity about this man is that he wants all the people to act as in literature, and after each disappointment in his life he returns to his world of books.       It is known that he spent almost all his time reading. He says, “I had no resource except reading, that is, there was nothing in my surroundings which I could respect and which attracted me” (Dostoyevsky 51). In the short story The Guest by Camus, a French Algerian schoolteacher encounters the Arab prisoner. He hesitates to adopt the role of a colonizer and to use his right to hand the Arab in. He says, “That man’s stupid crime revolted him, but to hand him over was contrary to honor; just thinking of it made him boil with humiliation. He simultaneously cursed his own people who had sent him this Arab and the Arab who had dared to kill and not managed to get away” (Camus 83). The major themes revealed in the literary work include the theme of individual alienation, the theme of freedom and the value of life, the theme of responsibility and difficulty of moral choice. The author portrays colonial life and colonizers.

In addition, there are certain differences in the structure of these literary works. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky consists of two parts, the first part is written in a monologue form which represents the narrator’s diary, while the second part of the novel describes some events that have negative impact on the main character. The short story The Guest by Camus has a rather simple structure.

It is possible to find a lot of similarities in the use of literary devices. For example, both in the novel Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky and The Guest by Camus, the authors use such literary techniques as symbolism, irony, foreshadowing, etc. In Dostoyevsky’s novel, such symbol as underground stands for the main character’s isolation, the stone wall stands for the barrier to the established rules, 2+2=4 stands for the rule that limits the main character’s free will. In Camus’s short story, symbolism is represented in the specific location of the main character’s home – at the foothills, somewhere between the desert and the dark plateau. The desert stands for the Arabs, while the plateau stands for the French. As Daru was placed on the plateau, he was forced to join the French in the colonial conflict in Algeria.

One more similarity is that both literary works are considered to be existentialist novels. The Guest represents the concept of absurdism which is concluded in the Daru’s dilemmas regarding the Algerian crisis. Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoyevsky emphasize the existentialist philosophy which states that there is always a choice for the human being and that the only choice unavailable is to ignore the choice. For example, Daru in the short story by Camus chooses how he will treat Balducci and if he will turn in the prisoner, while the prisoner chooses if he will go to jail or choose freedom. In Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky, the author discusses the role of man in the world in which there is no God, religion and faith. The Underground man is represented as a miserable and despicable man who betrays himself and does not realize this fact. Notes from Underground  includes many existential questions of the 19th century, which are focused on the declining belief in God and religion. Dostoevsky consideres that mankind has lost its moral bearing and directionless in the life.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that both literary works discussed in this paper are considered to be existentialist literary works which are focused on the absence of God and absolute freedom of the main characters in their choices. Both Dostoyevsky and Camus use many literary techniques in order to make their speech colorful and expressive for the readers. However, there are some differences between them which are concluded in different themes, different structures of the literary works and, of course, different plots.

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