Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1864 novel, Notes From Underground, is about an unnamed narrator who has gone “underground” to live in isolation from society. He shows several signs of social anxiety through his thoughts and actions. The following quotes from the Underground Man convey what social anxiety feels like.
“You doubtlessly mean to say something, but hide your last word through fear, because you have not the resolution to utter it, and only have a cowardly impudence.”
“My life was even then gloomy, ill-regulated, and as solitary as that of a savage. I made friends with no one and positively avoided talking, and buried myself more and more in my hole. At work in the office I never looked at anyone, and was perfectly well aware that my companions looked upon me, not only as a queer fellow, but even looked upon me—I always fancied this—with a sort of loathing.”
“I dropped my eyes almost every time I met anyone. I even made experiments whether I could face so and so’s looking at me, and I was always the first to drop my eyes. This worried me to distraction.”
“I was fearfully afraid of being seen, of being met, of being recognized.”
“I was afraid not of his six-foot-tallness, not of getting a sound thrashing and being thrown out of the window… I was afraid that everyone present, from the insolent marker down to the lowest little stinking, pimply clerk in a greasy collar, would jeer at me… I was fully convinced that they would all simply split their sides with laughter.”
“But I did not sing. I simply tried not to look at any of them. I assumed most unconcerned attitudes and waited with impatience for them to speak FIRST. But alas, they did not address me! And oh, how I wished, how I wished at that moment to be reconciled to them!”
“‘Oh, if you only knew what thoughts and feelings I am capable of, how cultured I am!’ I thought at moments, mentally addressing the sofa on which my enemies were sitting. But my enemies behaved as though I were not in the room.”
“My head was full of fumes. Something seemed to be hovering over me, rousing me, exciting me, and making me restless. Misery and spite seemed surging up in me again and seeking an outlet.”
“I thought to myself, though I did speak with real feeling, and all at once I flushed crimson. ‘What if she were suddenly to burst out laughing, what should I do then?’ That idea drove me to fury. Towards the end of my speech I really was excited, and now my vanity was somehow wounded. The silence continued.”
“What did I thrust my address upon her for? What if she comes?… The thought that Liza was coming worried me continually… ‘What if she comes,’ I thought incessantly.”
For an explanation of these quotes, read my full review of Social Anxiety in Notes From the Underground.
This was so helpful! I’m writing an essay on this book for my ELA class and this helped me out a lot!
Pingback: Overthinking is NOT the Problem | T.Z. Barry