Notes from Underground By Fyodor Dostoevsky Summary and Analysis Part 1: Section 10

Summary

The Underground Man is afraid of such an edifice as the "Crystal Palace," a place which can never be destroyed. For, if it were not a palace, and if he were caught in a rainstorm, he would then creep into it to avoid getting wet. But he rejects the Crystal Palace because it would be a place where one would not dare stick out his tongue. The narrator's desire is to always have the right to stick out his tongue if he wishes; and one's desires should not be eradicated. He would even let his "tongue be cut off" if he were to lose "all desire to put it out." This is the way he is constructed. Thus he wonders if he was so constructed so as to realize that he was cheated in his construction.

Analysis

The reader will be disturbed by the total confusion of this section. In Russia, there has always been strict censorship, both in Dostoevsky's time under the Tsar and later under the Communist regime. Therefore, everything that Dostoevsky wrote had to be submitted to a censor for approval, and when the censor finished with this section, it was so badly mutilated that, as it now reads, it makes little sense. On March 26, 1864, Dostoevsky wrote to his brother Mikhail (Michael) complaining about the censored parts. He was incensed at the "swine of a censor who approved the passages where I jeered at everything and blasphemed everything" and yet the same swine "suppressed all the passages where I drew conclusions that faith in Christ is needed."

Why Dostoevsky never restored the passages or left no indication of the meaning of the censored passages is still a mystery. However, we can safely say that this section offered some positive solution. From his other writings, we can assume that the solution was probably in terms of a voluntary choice to follow Christ in spite of the pain and suffering such a choice would entail.

In the passages left in, we see that the Underground Man is still using images to attack the socialistic utopia. In addition to the ant-heap of the last section, he now uses the images of the "henhouse," the "block of tenements," and the "Crystal Palace." The main image, the Crystal Palace, refers to the building in London made of glass and iron, which was thought of as a magnificent and monumental architectural feat. The Underground Man, however, uses it as an image of scientific advancement which is supposed to replace man's inner needs, desires, and emotions. He cannot look upon this palace and be satisfied. He cannot respect science at the expense of a spiritual hunger that needs to be satisfied.

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