Notes from Underground

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Notes from Underground Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The underground man arrives at the party before anyone else, and finds that the table isn’t even set for their dinner yet. He learns from a waiter that dinner has been ordered to start at six, not five. The underground man feels embarrassed and shamed as he sits for an hour, waiting, while a waiter sets the table. At last, Zverkov, Simonov, and the others arrive. Simonov apologizes for forgetting to tell the underground man that they had changed the time of the party. Zverkov and Ferfichkin laugh at the idea of the underground man waiting for an hour before the party, irritating him.
The underground man’s feelings of shame and embarrassment suggest he has some interest in society: if he truly did not care about anyone else, he wouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed in front of them.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Zverkov asks the underground man about his work, speaking with long, drawn-out words, and the underground man mockingly imitates this manner of speaking. Zverkov comments that the underground man does not make very much money at his job. After some tense conversation, all the other guests start talking amongst themselves, leaving the underground man “completely crushed and humiliated.” He thinks of leaving “out of contempt,” but ends up staying and getting drunk.
The underground man spitefully teases Zverkov for his manner of speaking. Before long, he finds himself excluded from the group of party guests, isolated yet again. Despite thinking of leaving “out of contempt,” the underground man stays to suffer through the party for no clear or apparent reason.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man watches the other guests as he drinks more and more wine. He comments that they “have forgotten all about me.” He breaks into the conversation once, and the others notice how drunk he was. He says that Zverkov looks at him “as if I were an insect.”
Continually ignored and neglected by others, the underground man again feels reduced to the status of an insignificant creature—here an insect.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
The underground man stands up to make a toast and makes a comment about how he hates “obscene stories and the men who tell them,” alluding to Zverkov’s habit of telling such stories. Everyone is upset at this, and Ferfichkin says the underground man should be “whacked in the face for saying such things.” The underground man responds by challenging Ferfichkin to a duel, at which everyone simply laughs.
The underground man attempts to inflict some of the pain he is feeling on Zverkov by humiliating him in front of his friends. Everyone laughs at his idea of a duel, because it is an excessively literary idea, drawn from stories, and duels are not a common occurrence anymore in real life.
Themes
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon
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The underground man stays at the party, where he continues to drink. He tells the reader about how he “smiled contemptuously and paced up and down” the room. He stomps his boots loudly, but no one pays him any attention. He says he understood that he was humiliating himself, but didn’t care. He says that his “enemies behaved as if I weren’t even in the room.” Finally, Zverkov suggests they all go to a brothel.
Demonstrating what he argued in part one, the underground man seems to behave not in his own best interest, staying around the awkward party for no apparent reason. He alternates between caring and not caring about his own humiliation and what others think of him. Meanwhile, everyone else continues to neglect him.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man asks Zverkov and everyone else for their forgiveness, apologizing for his behavior and for insulting them. Zverkov replies that he could never feel insulted by the underground man. The underground man says he “stood there as if spat on.” He decides to go with them to the brothel, grabs Simonov by his coat, and demands that he lend him some money for the occasion. He imagines that if he follows the others to the brothel, either they will “all fall on their knees, embracing me, begging for my friendship. . . or else, I’ll give Zverkov a slap in the face.”
Zverkov’s reply suggests that the underground man is so insignificant that nothing he could do would ever insult him. Feeling his dignity impugned, the underground man still vacillates between wanting the others’ respect (imagining them begging for his friendship) and despising them (imagining slapping Zverkov), though both fantasies involve him having a social power that he clearly doesn’t. The underground man imagines what action he will take, but doesn’t actually end up doing much.
Themes
Thought vs. Action Theme Icon
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Human Nature Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon