Notes from Underground

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Notes from Underground Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The underground man again says he couldn’t even become an insect, even though he often wished he would become one. He says this is because he has more than “ordinary human consciousness,” and says that “being overly conscious is a disease.” Moreover, he was living in St. Petersburg, “the most abstract and premeditated city in the whole world.” The more he knew about what was good, the worse person he became. He could, however, still find some pleasure in his despair, from the knowledge that he was a bad person, and “couldn’t be otherwise.”
The underground man has a low opinion of himself and most others, thinking that he is less than an insect. Being “overly conscious” is like a disease because it prevents him from taking action. The meticulously planned layout of the modern city of St. Petersburg represents the very overly conscious, rational thought the underground man struggles with. He irrationally finds pleasure in his despair.
Themes
Thought vs. Action Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man says that he is not to blame for being a bad person, because “overly acute consciousness” results in inertia. He says there have been times when he would have been happy to have been slapped in the face. He says he is always “the first to be blamed for everything.” He says if he were slapped in the face, he couldn’t forgive the person who slapped him, because he “had slapped me in accordance with the laws of nature,” but would also be unable to take revenge on him, because he can never decide on a course of action.
The underground man thinks so much that he never gets around to doing much. His “overly acute consciousness” results in so much boredom that he would enjoy even being slapped in the face, as this would at least be an event: in other words, pain would be preferable to boredom, though his highly developed sense of honor also wouldn’t let him forgive such a slight. The underground man tends to see others as acting foolishly by “the laws of nature,” which he attempts to deny.
Themes
Thought vs. Action Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon