Notes from Underground

The Archetypes of Outcasts as a Window into Society 12th Grade

Archetypes are an important foundation for building literary work. As “reoccurring patterns, images, or descriptive details” (Crisp 2), they not only define the identity of an author’s characters, but the course of the plot, the journeys and the tragedies. Archetypes are utilized as a useful tool in order to convey the author’s beliefs as well as bring important issues regarding society or the human condition to light. The archetype of the outcast is one of those tools, albeit far more complex then the usual models of tragic heroes or femme fatales. The outcast lives outside of the norms of society, either being cast out or leaving of his own volition, often coping with feelings of anger towards that world or continuing to rebel against normalcy while unable to function in daily life (Crisp 1). This gives these characters a unique vantage point and, suddenly freed by the constraints of social behavior, they can then scrutinize the details of lives with their “alternative processing” (Crisp 3) and uncover the tribulations developing within society which would otherwise not be noticed with a limited perspective of proper conduct.

19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky understood the importance of this particular...

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