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The Psychosocial Dimension in ‘The House of the Dead”

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  • maank72
    I also read the book. I found it a great though distressing book. However, it demonstrated Dostoevsky s mastery in observation and description of the human
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 18, 2013
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      I also read the book. I found it a great though distressing book. However, it demonstrated Dostoevsky's mastery in observation and description of the human psychology and social world. What I liked the most about the book was its psychosocial dimension, which can be seen in the following:

      1-Coping & adjustment: According Lazarus and Folkman, prominent names in the area of stress, in a situation/event, the person resorts to two appraisals, primary appraisal (appraisal of the situation/event, whether it is taxing or over-demanding, either physically or psychologically) and secondary appraisal (appraisal of one's coping resources, emotional, physical, and cognitive). So stress is regarded as a response to lack of resources. Moreover, if the person is unable to change the external factors in the environment to reduce the distress, they may turn to emotion-focused as well as cognitive coping strategies. Dostoevsky was great in showing that; for example, the narrators decided that he wants to leave the prison strong, did not want to surrender, and was happy to find him muscles stronger, even contemplating the river and nature was relaxing to him.

      2-The human need to belong to a group: Can be seen in the conflict the narrator experienced between his sense of not belonging to those labeled as criminals/convicts and the need to belong to them, to be like them; as well as the need to feel that he is accepted by them. Many research studies had found that experiencing discrimination can be a source of high stress, and chronic stress coupled with perceived loneliness and isolation and lack of social support can lead to adverse health outcomes (he was a frequent visitor of the hospital, which also acted as an escape). The dog made him feel happy, as he felt there is a creature that cares about him, which emphasized the social nature of humans.

      3-Dostoevsky was great at showing the need for respect and dignity when he showed that even the convicts who knew that they were convicts demanded respect however: "no brand, no fetters will ever be able to make him forget that he is a human being, and since he is a human being it is necessary to treat him as one."

      4-The book provided an example of two important social issues, namely, the power of the situation/role (How a person identify with his/her role; officer vs. convict), and the obedience to authority (as can be seen in the obedience to the officer's command to punish the convicts by flogging them). This point reminded me of an important experiment conducted by Professor Zimbardo on psychology of imprisonment, called the Stanford Prison Experiment: http://www.prisonexp.org/

      Of course the book also shows Dostoevsky's talent in inventing various characters, showing different personality traits and characteristics, which were clear through social interaction.

      Finally, I was surprised to learn that the book was a source of the opera From the House of the Dead (Z mrtvého domu in Czech by Leoš Janáèek, in three acts, with libretto translated and adapted by the composer from the novel.

      Maan K
    • Bekah
      Thanks Maan - I hadn t picked up on the psycho-social aspects as much or as well as you did but I did find some as I read along. One was the importance
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 18, 2013
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        Thanks Maan - I hadn't picked up on the psycho-social aspects as much or as well as you did but I did find some as I read along.

        One was the importance Dostoevsky seemed to place on letting the convicts have some freedom once in awhile, make their own choices - and maybe especially their Christmas program. D. said it a couple or three times, this little bit of freedom was necessary to the smooth functioning of the prisoners. Even some of the guards recognized it and let them have their entertainments.

        I'm not sure Dostoevsky invented all that much here - I have no real idea but I'll bet a lot of the material was from his own memory and, as you said, his keen observational skills, of his own attitudes as well as of those around him.

        Bekah


        On Jul 18, 2013, at 10:53 AM, maank72 <maank72@...> wrote:

        > I also read the book. I found it a great though distressing book. However, it demonstrated Dostoevsky's mastery in observation and description of the human psychology and social world. What I liked the most about the book was its psychosocial dimension, which can be seen in the following:
        >
        > 1-Coping & adjustment: According Lazarus and Folkman, prominent names in the area of stress, in a situation/event, the person resorts to two appraisals, primary appraisal (appraisal of the situation/event, whether it is taxing or over-demanding, either physically or psychologically) and secondary appraisal (appraisal of one's coping resources, emotional, physical, and cognitive). So stress is regarded as a response to lack of resources. Moreover, if the person is unable to change the external factors in the environment to reduce the distress, they may turn to emotion-focused as well as cognitive coping strategies. Dostoevsky was great in showing that; for example, the narrators decided that he wants to leave the prison strong, did not want to surrender, and was happy to find him muscles stronger, even contemplating the river and nature was relaxing to him.
        >
        > 2-The human need to belong to a group: Can be seen in the conflict the narrator experienced between his sense of not belonging to those labeled as criminals/convicts and the need to belong to them, to be like them; as well as the need to feel that he is accepted by them. Many research studies had found that experiencing discrimination can be a source of high stress, and chronic stress coupled with perceived loneliness and isolation and lack of social support can lead to adverse health outcomes (he was a frequent visitor of the hospital, which also acted as an escape). The dog made him feel happy, as he felt there is a creature that cares about him, which emphasized the social nature of humans.
        >
        > 3-Dostoevsky was great at showing the need for respect and dignity when he showed that even the convicts who knew that they were convicts demanded respect however: "no brand, no fetters will ever be able to make him forget that he is a human being, and since he is a human being it is necessary to treat him as one."
        >
        > 4-The book provided an example of two important social issues, namely, the power of the situation/role (How a person identify with his/her role; officer vs. convict), and the obedience to authority (as can be seen in the obedience to the officer's command to punish the convicts by flogging them). This point reminded me of an important experiment conducted by Professor Zimbardo on psychology of imprisonment, called the Stanford Prison Experiment: http://www.prisonexp.org/
        >
        > Of course the book also shows Dostoevsky's talent in inventing various characters, showing different personality traits and characteristics, which were clear through social interaction.
        >
        > Finally, I was surprised to learn that the book was a source of the opera From the House of the Dead (Z mrtvého domu in Czech by Leoš Janáèek, in three acts, with libretto translated and adapted by the composer from the novel.
        >
        > Maan K
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
      • Bekah
        One more thing - observational skills are great as far as they go, but you have to also be able to put those observations into language readers understand
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 18, 2013
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          One more thing - observational skills are great as far as they go, but you have to also be able to put those observations into language readers understand and open their eyes to those same things in themselves or those around them. Dostoevsky was a master.

          Bekah

          On Jul 18, 2013, at 1:47 PM, Bekah <bekah0176@...> wrote:

          > Thanks Maan - I hadn't picked up on the psycho-social aspects as much or as well as you did but I did find some as I read along.
          >
          > One was the importance Dostoevsky seemed to place on letting the convicts have some freedom once in awhile, make their own choices - and maybe especially their Christmas program. D. said it a couple or three times, this little bit of freedom was necessary to the smooth functioning of the prisoners. Even some of the guards recognized it and let them have their entertainments.
          >
          > I'm not sure Dostoevsky invented all that much here - I have no real idea but I'll bet a lot of the material was from his own memory and, as you said, his keen observational skills, of his own attitudes as well as of those around him.
          >
          > Bekah
          >
          >
          > On Jul 18, 2013, at 10:53 AM, maank72 <maank72@...> wrote:
          >
          >> I also read the book. I found it a great though distressing book. However, it demonstrated Dostoevsky's mastery in observation and description of the human psychology and social world. What I liked the most about the book was its psychosocial dimension, which can be seen in the following:
          >>
          >> 1-Coping & adjustment: According Lazarus and Folkman, prominent names in the area of stress, in a situation/event, the person resorts to two appraisals, primary appraisal (appraisal of the situation/event, whether it is taxing or over-demanding, either physically or psychologically) and secondary appraisal (appraisal of one's coping resources, emotional, physical, and cognitive). So stress is regarded as a response to lack of resources. Moreover, if the person is unable to change the external factors in the environment to reduce the distress, they may turn to emotion-focused as well as cognitive coping strategies. Dostoevsky was great in showing that; for example, the narrators decided that he wants to leave the prison strong, did not want to surrender, and was happy to find him muscles stronger, even contemplating the river and nature was relaxing to him.
          >>
          >> 2-The human need to belong to a group: Can be seen in the conflict the narrator experienced between his sense of not belonging to those labeled as criminals/convicts and the need to belong to them, to be like them; as well as the need to feel that he is accepted by them. Many research studies had found that experiencing discrimination can be a source of high stress, and chronic stress coupled with perceived loneliness and isolation and lack of social support can lead to adverse health outcomes (he was a frequent visitor of the hospital, which also acted as an escape). The dog made him feel happy, as he felt there is a creature that cares about him, which emphasized the social nature of humans.
          >>
          >> 3-Dostoevsky was great at showing the need for respect and dignity when he showed that even the convicts who knew that they were convicts demanded respect however: "no brand, no fetters will ever be able to make him forget that he is a human being, and since he is a human being it is necessary to treat him as one."
          >>
          >> 4-The book provided an example of two important social issues, namely, the power of the situation/role (How a person identify with his/her role; officer vs. convict), and the obedience to authority (as can be seen in the obedience to the officer's command to punish the convicts by flogging them). This point reminded me of an important experiment conducted by Professor Zimbardo on psychology of imprisonment, called the Stanford Prison Experiment: http://www.prisonexp.org/
          >>
          >> Of course the book also shows Dostoevsky's talent in inventing various characters, showing different personality traits and characteristics, which were clear through social interaction.
          >>
          >> Finally, I was surprised to learn that the book was a source of the opera From the House of the Dead (Z mrtvého domu in Czech by Leoš Janáèek, in three acts, with libretto translated and adapted by the composer from the novel.
          >>
          >> Maan K
          >>
          >>
          >>
          >>
          >> ------------------------------------
          >>
          >> Yahoo! Groups Links
          >>
          >>
          >>
          >
          >
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
        • maank72
          Hello Bekah, Thanks! I definitely agree with you Dostoevsky was a real master, in form as well as in content. I loved his use of language in his short story
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 19, 2013
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            Hello Bekah,

            Thanks! I definitely agree with you Dostoevsky was a real master, in form as well as in content. I loved his use of language in his short story "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man".

            The point you mentioned regarding the freedom of options is quite right; moreover, Dostoevsky mentioned the importance of work to convicts as well. I think here the sense of achievement as well as venting of negative emotions is pivotal for coping, as boredom and underachievement, according to research, are also a source for stress. However, talking about coping and adjustment, the narrator said: "Man is a creature that can get used to anything, and I think that is the best definition of him."; a great and significant point!

            Also, from the life narrative perspective, the narrator wrote his life narrative in order to grasp the meaning of his lived experience, brining, somehow, order out of chaos.

            Best,

            Maan K

            --- In crgII@yahoogroups.com, Bekah <bekah0176@...> wrote:
            >
            > Thanks Maan - I hadn't picked up on the psycho-social aspects as much or as well as you did but I did find some as I read along.
            >
            > One was the importance Dostoevsky seemed to place on letting the convicts have some freedom once in awhile, make their own choices - and maybe especially their Christmas program. D. said it a couple or three times, this little bit of freedom was necessary to the smooth functioning of the prisoners. Even some of the guards recognized it and let them have their entertainments.
            >
            > I'm not sure Dostoevsky invented all that much here - I have no real idea but I'll bet a lot of the material was from his own memory and, as you said, his keen observational skills, of his own attitudes as well as of those around him.
            >
            > Bekah
            >
            >
            > On Jul 18, 2013, at 10:53 AM, maank72 <maank72@...> wrote:
            >
            > > I also read the book. I found it a great though distressing book. However, it demonstrated Dostoevsky's mastery in observation and description of the human psychology and social world. What I liked the most about the book was its psychosocial dimension, which can be seen in the following:
            > >
            > > 1-Coping & adjustment: According Lazarus and Folkman, prominent names in the area of stress, in a situation/event, the person resorts to two appraisals, primary appraisal (appraisal of the situation/event, whether it is taxing or over-demanding, either physically or psychologically) and secondary appraisal (appraisal of one's coping resources, emotional, physical, and cognitive). So stress is regarded as a response to lack of resources. Moreover, if the person is unable to change the external factors in the environment to reduce the distress, they may turn to emotion-focused as well as cognitive coping strategies. Dostoevsky was great in showing that; for example, the narrators decided that he wants to leave the prison strong, did not want to surrender, and was happy to find him muscles stronger, even contemplating the river and nature was relaxing to him.
            > >
            > > 2-The human need to belong to a group: Can be seen in the conflict the narrator experienced between his sense of not belonging to those labeled as criminals/convicts and the need to belong to them, to be like them; as well as the need to feel that he is accepted by them. Many research studies had found that experiencing discrimination can be a source of high stress, and chronic stress coupled with perceived loneliness and isolation and lack of social support can lead to adverse health outcomes (he was a frequent visitor of the hospital, which also acted as an escape). The dog made him feel happy, as he felt there is a creature that cares about him, which emphasized the social nature of humans.
            > >
            > > 3-Dostoevsky was great at showing the need for respect and dignity when he showed that even the convicts who knew that they were convicts demanded respect however: "no brand, no fetters will ever be able to make him forget that he is a human being, and since he is a human being it is necessary to treat him as one."
            > >
            > > 4-The book provided an example of two important social issues, namely, the power of the situation/role (How a person identify with his/her role; officer vs. convict), and the obedience to authority (as can be seen in the obedience to the officer's command to punish the convicts by flogging them). This point reminded me of an important experiment conducted by Professor Zimbardo on psychology of imprisonment, called the Stanford Prison Experiment: http://www.prisonexp.org/
            > >
            > > Of course the book also shows Dostoevsky's talent in inventing various characters, showing different personality traits and characteristics, which were clear through social interaction.
            > >
            > > Finally, I was surprised to learn that the book was a source of the opera From the House of the Dead (Z mrtvého domu in Czech by Leoš Janáèek, in three acts, with libretto translated and adapted by the composer from the novel.
            > >
            > > Maan K
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > >
            > > ------------------------------------
            > >
            > > Yahoo! Groups Links
            > >
            > >
            > >
            >
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