The underground man’s happiness wears off soon after this, though. He seeks escape into “all that was beautiful and sublime,” in his dreams, and says he dreams for three months straight. In his dreams, he is a hero. The happiness he finds in his dreams makes him optimistic that something will “suddenly appear” in the world and allow him to leave his isolation. Since this never happens, he instead becomes the worst person he can, because he wants to be “either a hero or dirt.”
The underground man retreats from society into isolation and the world of his dreams, made up by his overactive consciousness. He can be a hero only in his dreams; in real life, the underground man has a much more pessimistic conception of human nature.
The underground man alternates between feeling like a hero and feeling in “the lowest depths.” Nonetheless, he finds “fantastic love” in his dreams. He says he is a hero in his dreams, like Manfred (a Romantic hero in a work by Lord Byron), and everyone loves him. He guesses that his readers think it is repugnant of him to describe his tasteless dreams, but he insists he is not ashamed of his dreams.
The underground man models his dreams—and to some degree his life—on fantasies from literature he has read. He insists he is not ashamed of sharing his dreams, suggesting he doesn’t care what others think of him, but nonetheless addresses readers in an attempt to reach out to others.
After three months of such dreams, though, the underground man feels “an irresistible urge to plunge into society.” He says that he would normally alleviate this urge by going to see his office chief, Anton Antonych, who entertained guests at his home on Tuesdays. The underground man found conversation with these guests boring and each time after visiting Anton Antonych he says he would “postpone for some time my desire to embrace all of humanity.”
The underground man often tries to act entirely superior to mainstream society, but occasionally still desires some kind of community. He alternates between feeling tragically rejected by society and wanting to “embrace all of humanity” and feeling as though he wants nothing to do with others.
The underground man describes another acquaintance, a former schoolmate named Simonov. He absolutely hated school, but still knows of a few former schoolmates, including Simonov. One night, “unable to endure” his isolation, the underground man pays a visit to Simonov’s apartment. It has been a year since they have last seen each other.
School is another environment—like his office—where the underground man was lonely and isolated even when around others. The underground man is so fed up with his loneliness that he actually takes action, rather than just thinking about visiting Simonov.