The insult is a common trope in Dostoevsky. Throughout his work, characters insult each other, pull each other by the nose, push each other out of the way, bite each other’s ears, mock each other’s loftiest ideals in public, wound each other’s amour propre, either knowingly or unknowingly, and generally trample all over each other’s human dignity.
At the end of Notes from Underground, the underground man, having egregiously insulted Liza, muses: Won’t it be better if she now carries an insult away with her forever? An insult- but this is purification; it’s the most stinging and painful consciousness… the insult will never die in her… will elevate and purify her…
For Dostoevsky, the insult is a spring board to increased consciousness. By encountering insult, the self experiences great tension between its notion of itself as a subject, and the sudden awareness of itself as another’s object, and this opens up a dizzying awareness of consciousness, a painful but necessary experience, and one that is essentially human.
Which is better, cheap happiness, or lofty suffering, well, I ask you, which is better?