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Although the themes of destiny and fate play a main role in the lives of Underground Man and Sundiata, both characters adapt differently to their predetermined positions.
Sundiata trusts in his destiny. Sundiata’s fate was to be king of Niani and the creator of the kingdom of the Mali. He should be a hero, and “neither the jealousy of a cruel stepmother, nor her wickedness, could alter for a moment the course of great destiny.” (Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali). Understanding of his destiny gives Sundiata the power to persevere during suffering, and the ability to discount the confidence of his enemies as quixotic misdirection. Sundiata is ingenious with expressions suggestive of destiny: “But what can one do against destiny? Nothing…” or “We think we are hurting our neighbors at the time when we are working in the very direction of destiny.” (Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali). Unlike Sundiata, Underground Man is an antihero, the kind of crushed, indecisive victim of society that Dostoevsky would continue to research in his later works.
The trust in destiny is accepting everything as inescapable, unavoidable. The Underground Man shows the folks surrounding his as observing the laws of Natural World as a type of destiny and he said, “‘Upon my word, they will shout at you, it is no use protesting: it is a case of twice two makes four! Nature does not ask your permission, she has nothing to do with your wishes, and whether you like her laws or dislike them, you are bound to accept her as she is, and consequently all her conclusions. A wall, you see, is a wall … and so on, and so on.’” (Dostoevsky). The words he assigns to these people are a good definition of destiny. The Underground Man wants to refuse this destiny, wants to be unrestrained by the laws of Natural World. He guesses he can escape by the use of logic and thinking, but he determines that, “while silently and impotently gnashing your teeth, you sink voluptuously into inertia” (Dostoevsky). His incapacity to act is a shape of destiny in itself in that it is, for him, an unavoidable occasion: “every primary cause drags in another, an even more primary one, and so on to infinity” (Dostoevsky), till he is again captured by his destiny. The most absurd part of his existence is “one’s very own free, unfettered desire, one’s own whim, no matter how wild, one’s own fantasy” (Dostoevsky). Only when a human is guided by his wishes rather than reason can he anticipate to be independent of his destiny.
The lack of a clear destiny made Fyodor Dostoevsky anxious, because moral certainty and dogmas can cause people to become fatalists, they will consider that everything works out for the best. Approval of the belief that all occurrences are predetermined and unavoidable and there is a perception that there is no free will. This can guide people to confidence that anything they do they cannot be held answerable for. The lack of a clear destiny and fatalism run through all obligations. Because if you are a fatalist and you murder somebody then it would most likely be your trust that you were meant to murder that man; that murdering that man was your destiny and destiny and you cannot be held answerable for your acts because they are already determined for you before you even understand it. And anyone who believes in destiny would say that you have no choice – regarding anything.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. “Notes from Underground.” Everyman’s Library. 23 Mar. 2004.
“Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali.” Longman African Writers Series. 23 Apr. 1995.