Notes from Underground By Fyodor Dostoevsky Summary and Analysis Part 2: Section 3

Summary

When the Underground Man arrived at Simonov's, he found two other old schoolmates there. He was disgusted that all three completely ignored his entrance even though Simonov seemed positively surprised at his coming. The three were planning a farewell dinner for a comrade called Zverkov whom the Underground Man also knew and had hated during their school days. Zverkov had inherited an estate while still in school and even though he was good-natured and generous, the Underground Man still found reasons for disliking him.

Simonov's two visitors were Ferfichkin, a Russianized German who had been the Underground Man's bitter enemy since early school days and Trudolyubov, a distant relative of Zverkov's. The three decided that for twenty-one rubles (seven each), they should be able to provide a good farewell dinner for Zverkov at the Hotel de Paris. Abruptly, the Underground Man invited himself by asserting that his seven rubles would make a grand total of twenty-eight. The other three men tried to convince the Underground Man that he had never been on good terms with Zverkov, but he insisted on being invited; the party ended and Trudolyubov left puzzled and vexed.

After the others were gone, Simonov paused, then asked the Underground Man if he could pay his share now. Suddenly, the Underground Man panicked as he realized that not only was he broke, but also that he had owed Simonov fifteen rubles for some time. Simonov tactfully told him that it could all be settled after the dinner tomorrow.

Strolling along the street, the Underground Man could not understand what possessed him to insist upon attending a party for such a detestable scoundrel as Zverkov. Furthermore, he didn't even have any money, especially if he were to pay his servant's wages. He knew he should write a note and send his regrets, but he knew that he would definitely attend the dinner.

Having renewed his acquaintance with one of his schoolmates, the Underground Man suffered through a serious of hideous nightmares at night. In his dreams he relived the miserable days when his relatives sent him off to boarding school where he was a quiet, timid boy unable to form any friendships. He hated his schoolmates and they repaid him by ignoring him. To get revenge, he studied hard and forced himself to the top of the class. The Underground Man did develop one friend, but he became so possessive and demanding in the relationship that his tyranny drove his friend away. Then, as soon as the Underground Man graduated, he gave up the special position he had been trained for so that he could divorce himself completely from his schoolmates.

The morning after his horrible dream, he says that he slipped away from his office two hours early in order to be ready for the dinner. When he began to dress, however, he was horrified over his threadbare clothing and knew that he would become the subject of derision. Furthermore, he knew that a yellow stain on one knee of his trousers would deprive him of nine-tenths of his personal dignity. He was in despair when he thought how coldly, disdainfully, and rudely the others would glare at him. He dreamed of "getting the upper hand" by means of his superior wit and intelligence so that Zverkov would be left isolated and then later they would be reconciled and drink to an eternal friendship. Finally noticing the time, he hailed a sledge, spent his last ruble, and arrived at the Hotel de Paris in grand style.

Analysis

The Underground Man has already discussed the subject of duality in a man's personality. This chapter offers a concrete picture of this theory, of how opposite, conflicting emotions and actions can function within the same person. The entire section, in fact, is a masterful description of contradictory actions and emotions which are difficult to define. Dostoevsky's theory of realism was to make the reader recognize in the bizarre actions of others something in his own personality which heretofore he has refused to acknowledge. Observing the actions of the Underground Man, we feel a horror for him, followed by uncomfortable, comic feelings. At every word the Underground Man titters, we sense how deeply he is trapping himself in a situation which he has no real desire to be a part of.

For example, he did not like the company and he definitely detested Zverkov, for whom the dinner was being given. Yet he invited himself. He insisted on being allowed to help pay for a dinner he could not afford. Then, afterward, his inability to pay caused him even more distress and, as the dinner neared, he felt himself pulled further and further toward an abyss from which there was no escape.

The flashback into the Underground Man's youth and schooling is a literary technique often used by Dostoevsky. As with many authors, Dostoevsky utilized personal events in his own life for dramatic or literary purposes. Unlike the Underground Man, he was not an orphan, but he was sent to schools in which he had no interest and, according to reports, which he hated. Also in this section, his description of Ferfichkin as a Russianized German and as a despicable person parallels Dostoevsky's intense dislike and prejudice toward Germans.

The Underground Man states that as much as he desired friends, he was never able to develop a friendship. The one time he tried, he became a tyrant. This idea lays the groundwork for his failure at the party in the next section and also for his failure in the relationship with Liza where he is able to humiliate and ridicule her, but unable to respond to her as a decent human being. Already we see that the Underground Man is unable to accept people unless he can absolutely dominate them.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Dostoevsky was condemned to be shot by firing squad because he




Quiz