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Elitism and Prideful Disdain

In Dostoevsky’s Nasty Story, we follow the dreadful evening of a prideful bureaucrat. The story follows Ivan Ilyich Pralinsky, as he decides to crash his subordinate’s wedding reception. His reason for doing so, whether he admits it or not, is his pride. And, that’s what I want to discuss today: how elitism leads people to pride and a disdain for “common people.”

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What is Elitism?

Basically, elitism is the idea that a group of wealthy, powerful people deserve their wealth and power. Even if the elites are born into it, they still feel deserving. And, if they’re deserving, then the common people they look down on did something to be undeserving. So, it turns out to create a sort of social, political, and financial caste system. The problem is, the self-proclaimed elites aren’t always deserving of the praise they seek. So, it can go wrong for them.

Humbling the Elites

In the past, I’ve reviewed Dostoevsky’s work, and discussed the neuroticism of his characters. Ivan Ilyich Pralinsky is no exception. Throughout this story, he has this inner dialogue where he’ll be held up as a hero of the people. But, the story doesn’t go the way he planned it. In the end, he is humbled terribly and it shows that the higher one holds himself up, the further he can fall. Pralinsky’s elitist attitude blinded him from reality just as our elites are today. If you want to read it, you can find it for free here. For more book reviews and discussions like these, check out my library.

“What sort of heroism? This sort. Consider: in the existing relations of the various members of society, for me, for me, after midnight to go in to the wedding of my subordinate, a registration clerk, at ten roubles the month—why, it would mean embarrassment, a revolution, the last days of Pompeii, a nonsensical folly. No one would understand it. Stepan Nikiforovitch would die before he understood it. Why, he said we should break down. Yes, but that’s you old people, inert, paralytic people; but I shan’t break down, I will transform the last day of Pompeii to a day of the utmost sweetness for my subordinate, and a wild action to an action normal, patriarchal, lofty and moral.

An excerpt from A Nasty Story by Fyordor Dostoevsky

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