Notes from Underground


Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Notes from Underground: Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

The underground man anticipates that his reader might be thinking, “Ha, ha, ha! Why, you’ll be finding enjoyment in a toothache next!” He answers that there is indeed some pleasure in a toothache. He says that when people have a toothache they moan more than they need to, even though this moaning doesn’t help. He says that someone with a toothache will moan affectedly and loudly, preventing anyone in his house from getting any sleep, and this being “a nasty little man, a rogue,” is pleasurable. The man with the toothache then moans louder and louder. The underground man says he hopes his readers are laughing at him and says he has no respect for himself. He asks, “can a man possessing consciousness ever really respect himself?”
By anticipating the reader’s response and then responding to what he imagines his reader is thinking, the underground man’s monologue approaches a kind of conversation, compensating for his lonely existence. He defies reason by arguing that there is some kind of pleasure in the pain of a toothache, locating this pleasure in spitefully annoying others (with affectedly loud moaning). In the underground man’s opinion, someone with high consciousness thinks too much to respect himself unquestioningly.
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Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
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Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
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