Notes from Underground

Notes from Underground Part 2, Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
About fifteen minutes later, the underground man has stopped crying and is watching Liza. He tells the reader that he could not return any love to Liza because for him, “love meant tyrannizing and demonstrating my moral superiority.” Watching Liza, he doesn’t hate her anymore, but wants her to leave so that he can have “peace and quiet,” by himself. He tells the reader that real life “oppressed” him.
The underground man is so devoted to his spiteful, isolated life that he cannot conceive of genuine love. He only desires “peace and quiet” without interruption from anyone else, so that he can retreat into his reading and fantasizing, escaping the oppressions of real life.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon
Liza finally prepares to leave, and before she goes, the underground man slips some money into her hand “out of spite.” He says that he did this cruel action done cerebrally, from his head, not from his heart. Embarrassed, immediately after giving Liza the money, the underground man runs to the corner of the room and doesn’t look at her. She leaves and he calls after her, but too late.
The underground man spitefully sabotages any meaningful relationship between Liza and him by giving her money (and thereby reminding her that she is a paid prostitute), that their relationship is a thing of commerce and not connection. His spite defies logical explanation, as Liza has only been kind to him.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man sees that Liza has left the money he gave her on a table. He decides to run after her and goes outside, where it is snowing. He stops himself, though, and thinks that it would be better to have her “carry away the insult with her forever,” than to find her, “fall down before her, sob with remorse, kiss her feet, and beg her forgiveness.” He asks the reader, “Which is better: cheap happiness or sublime suffering?”
The underground man justifies his action by suggesting that he has given Liza the “sublime suffering” of an insult, which is preferable to the “cheap happiness” she would have had if he had been kind to her instead of malicious. Still somewhat conflicted, he almost runs after her, but, as is typical for him, decides not to pursue her and to maintain his solitude.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man tells the reader that he had “never before endured so much suffering and remorse” as that night. He says he never saw Liza again afterwards, and that he looks back on the event as “very unpleasant.” He thinks that he should end his notes, and says, “I think that I made a mistake in beginning to write them.”
The episode with Liza was a source of great suffering for the underground man—but was it “sublime” suffering in which he could find some form of pleasure? Writing has offered the underground man a way of speaking to others (his readers) and alleviating his boredom, but now he appears to reject even writing.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon
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The underground man says that he has been ashamed while writing these notes, and that a novel “needs a hero,” whereas he is an unpleasant anti-hero. Speaking of all people, he says, “we’ve all become estranged from life, we’re all cripples, every one of us.” He says that life would be even worse “if all our whimsical desires were fulfilled.”
The underground man rejects his enterprise of writing, and speaks of himself as a despicable anti-hero. He extrapolates from his own situation to a pessimistic conception of mankind generally.
Themes
Human Nature Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon
The underground man guesses that his readers think he speaks only for himself, and not for mankind in general, but he responds, “in my life I’ve only taken to an extreme that which you haven’t even dared to take halfway.” He says that all people “are oppressed by being men,” and says, “we’re stillborn.” He stops his tirade against mankind to say that he doesn’t want to write anymore. The novella ends with a note similar to the one at the beginning. It calls the underground man a “paradoxalist” and says that his notes go on more, but “it also seems to us that we might as well stop here.”
Even though he has just expressed dissatisfaction with writing, writing still offers the underground man the ability to speak to others, having a conversation with his imagined readers. He insists that he is not just an outlier, and instead that he is an example of human nature in general, and simply does not hide the qualities of mankind that others suppress. He has a very pessimistic conception of mankind. The author brings an end to the self-contradictory notes of the “paradoxalist,” which end without any logical conclusion.
Themes
Human Nature Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon