Notes from Underground

Notes from Underground Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The underground man resumes his story at two in the morning, when he wakes in the dark next to the girl. As he gathers his senses, he says that “misery and bile were welling inside me, seeking an outlet.” He looks at the girl next to him and feels that his having sex with her was absurd and revolting. He asks her what her name is, and she says it is Liza. He asks about her family and where she was from. She tells him that she just came to the brothel two weeks ago.
The underground man again lashes out because of the spite “welling inside” him. He does not direct his ill will at the prostitute for any rational reason, but simply because she is there next to him.
Themes
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man tells Liza about how earlier in the day he saw people carrying a coffin out of a “house of ill repute” (that is, a brothel) who dropped the coffin. He comments that it was a “nasty day to be buried,” as it was raining and the grave likely had water in it. The underground man tells Liza that the dead woman in the coffin was a prostitute who died of consumption, but worked up until the day of her death. He says that her former acquaintances were all laughing at her as she was buried. He admits to the reader that he made up “a great deal” of this story.
The underground man can’t help but embellish and fictionalize his account of the dead prostitute. Maliciously, he exaggerates the bad fate of the prostitute in order to impress upon Liza the hopelessness of her situation.
Themes
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon
The underground man tells Liza that she will grow older, “fade,” and eventually end up like this deceased woman. Liza begins to become upset, as the underground man tells her that she can still get out of the brothel, “fall in love, get married, be happy.” Liza quips that not all married women are happy. He tells her that even being unhappily married would be preferable to being a prostitute. He says that he is “no one’s slave,” whereas she is essentially a slave.
The underground man continues to spitefully exaggerate Liza’s unhappy situation, trying to make her upset. Despite his low opinion of himself and of human nature generally, he still takes comfort in not being a slave and in being able to exercise his free will.
Themes
Human Nature Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man says that it is “a disgrace” how he and Liza just slept together, and she agrees. He asks her why she came to the brothel. She doesn’t answer, so he goes on talking about how he grew up without a family, and tells her that if he had a daughter he would love her more than any sons. Liza makes a comment about how some fathers “are glad to sell their daughters,” and the underground man realizes that this must have been how Liza ended up in the brothel.
The underground man’s mention of possibly having a daughter suggests that he may not be an entire misanthrope, and perhaps desires some kind of family, community, or companion in some form.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
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The underground man says that families in which children are sold off are unfortunate, but that such unhappiness is the result of poverty. Liza suggests that there is unhappiness among wealthy people, as well. The underground man agrees but says that there can be happiness even among sorrow, especially in marriages. He tells Liza that “one can torment a person intentionally out of love,” and speaks about women who intentionally fight with their husbands.
The underground man insists to Liza on his irrational idea that suffering is not entirely bad, and can coexist with love and pleasure. His conversation with Liza began as a spiteful attempt to irritate her, but their conversation has now become the deepest connection the underground man has had with any other person in the novella.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
The underground man continues to speak about marriage, and optimistically talks about the endurance of love between husband and wife, especially after having children. He describes the “pure bliss” of a husband and wife with a small child. He stops talking and after a long silence, Liza tells him that he “sounds just like a book.” The underground man is hurt by this comment, but thinks that she is “intentionally disguising her feelings with sarcasm.”
The way the underground man speaks of marriage may suggest that he does not actually desire complete solitude in life. However, he may be playing a part in order to make Liza upset. Liza’s comment emphasizes how the underground man’s excessive reading (evidenced by his literary speech) marks him out as different and prevents him from bonding with others socially. When he thinks that she is hiding her own true feelings behind sarcasm, he seems to be projecting his own way of being upon her. He seems to crave connection and to hate the idea of it, perhaps out of fear.
Themes
Loneliness, Isolation, and Society Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon
Literature and Writing Theme Icon