Notes from Underground

Notes from Underground Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The underground man enters Simonov’s apartment. Some other former schoolmates are also there, but no one seems to notice him, treating him like “some sort of ordinary house fly.” They are planning a farewell dinner for a friend named Zverkov, an army officer who was leaving St. Petersburg. The underground man had hated Zverkov in school because “he was such an attractive, lively lad,” and would often arrogantly brag about himself.
The underground man’s schoolmates completely ignore him: again he is isolated even among others. It is unclear whether his spiteful disdain for Zverkov arises from a feeling that he is better than Zverkov or from envy for Zverkov’s attractiveness and popularity. The answer, as is typical for the underground man, is probably both.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man remembers how once Zverkov was bragging about his romantic exploits with peasant girls and how if the girls’ fathers protested, he would have them flogged. The underground man had attacked Zverkov, not out of pity for the girls but because everyone else around him was applauding and encouraging Zverkov, whom the underground man calls “a little insect.”
The underground man remembers attacking Zverkov for no noble reason, but simply out of spite (and perhaps jealousy). He refers to Zverkov as an insect, continuing his pattern of denigrating humanity by comparing people to insignificant animals.
Themes
Human Nature Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
One of Simonov’s guests at his apartment is Ferfichkin, who had been the underground man’s “bitterest enemy” in school. Ferfichkin was “a despicable, impudent show-off.” Also there is Trudolyubov, a military man who had always treated the underground man “as a nonentity.” They are all planning Zverkov’s party, and the underground man invites himself to it, offering to help pay. He thought everyone would respect him for offering to pay, but they are simply surprised that he would want to come along at all.
The underground man despises his former schoolmates, from whose community he has been continually excluded and by whom he has been ignored. There is thus little rationale behind his inviting himself to the party. His behavior seems to be irrational and seems to set him up for pain and social awkwardness, and yet his rejection of society is melded with a need for friendship and respect.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Simonov and the others reluctantly agree to let the underground man come to their party and tell him to meet them the next day at five in the evening. Simonov asks him if he could pay his share of the money for the party now, but the underground man doesn’t have any money on him. He embarrassedly remembers that he owes Simonov money anyways, which he had never paid back.
The underground man’s embarrassment at owing Simonov money shows that he cares to some degree about his reputation and what his former schoolmates think of him (even though he tries to act completely above them, as if he doesn’t care about their friendship or respect.)
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
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The underground man leaves Simonov and berates himself for interfering with the party. He is angry with himself and thinks he shouldn’t go, but then admits to himself that he is really so upset because he knows that he is going to go, even though he has no money—what little money he does have he has to pay to his servant Apollon, whom he promises to tell his readers about later.
The underground man simultaneously holds contradictory opinions about whether he should go to the party. He seems to be setting himself up for suffering by deciding to go. In his loneliness and isolation, he again addresses his readers directly.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon
The underground man recalls his school years. He was “a lonely boy,” and didn’t get along with any of his schoolmates, who teased him. He grew to consider them as beneath him and “hated them terribly.” As years went by, he became more and more successful academically in school, but still felt a need for friends. He tried to make friends with some schoolmates, but says he “was already a despot at heart,” and, when he made one friend, simply wanted to “exercise unlimited power over his soul.” After the friend “surrendered himself” to the underground man, he despised the friend.
It is unclear to what degree the underground man’s isolation at school was by choice: at times, he desired a friend, but would then realize the futility of such attempts. He is such a spiteful, malicious person that even as a child he only saw friendship as an opportunity for power. It is irrational and illogical that the underground man should want to exercise power over a friend, and then despise the friend for submitting to him.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The next day, the underground man plans anxiously for the party. He doesn’t want to arrive first, because then he would seem overly eager. As he is getting dressed, he sees that there was a yellow spot on his pants, and worries that the spot will make him appear undignified. But, he thinks to himself, “this isn’t the time for thinking. Reality is now looming.” He imagines how horrible the party will be, but wants to go to prove he isn’t a coward and isn’t intimidated by Zverkov and the others. He finally leaves his home and hires a cab to take him to the party, “in order to arrive at the Hotel de Paris in style.”
The underground man thinks excessively about the party. He evidently cares what his former schoolmates think of him and wants some part in their group. He realizes that he needs to take action and stop thinking, but it is ironic that he should think about how he needs to stop thinking so much. His desire to impress the others by arriving at the party in style is further evidence that at least part of him wants the approval of the others from whom he is isolated.
Themes
Thought vs. Action Theme Icon
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon