The Underground Man
The anonymous narrator and protagonist of the novel. The Underground Man is a minor civil servant living in nineteenth-century St. Petersburg who has retired completely into what he calls the “underground,” a state of total alienation and isolation from society. Severely misanthropic, the Underground Man believes himself to be more intelligent and perceptive than most other people in the world, but he also despises himself and frequently feels himself to be inferior or humiliated. We see all of the events and characters in the novel from the Underground Man’s skewed perspective.
A young prostitute whom the Underground Man tries to rescue after sleeping with her at a brothel. Liza is somewhat shy and innocent despite her profession, and she responds emotionally to the Underground Man’s efforts to convince her of the error of her ways. She is naturally loving and sympathetic, but she also has a sense of pride and nobility.
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A former schoolmate of the Underground Man, the only one with whom the Underground Man currently maintains a relationship. The Underground Man sees Simonov as an honest, independent man who is less narrow-minded than most people. Nonetheless, the Underground Man also suspects that Simonov despises him and finds his friendship burdensome.
A friend of Simonov’s and another former schoolmate of the Underground Man. Zverkov is a successful officer in the army and well liked by his friends. The Underground Man hated Zverkov during their school days, considering him to be coarse, boastful, and stupid. He is also jealous of Zverkov’s wealth, confidence and popularity.
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Another of the Underground Man’s former schoolmates and an admirer of Zverkov. In school, Ferfichkin was the Underground Man’s “bitterest enemy.” The Underground Man describes Ferfichkin as impudent, foolish, and cowardly, and notes that Ferfichkin frequently borrows money from Zverkov.
Another former schoolmate of the Underground Man and a distant relation of Zverkov’s. Trudolyubov is an honest man who treats the Underground Man with some degree of politeness. Nonetheless, he considers the Underground Man to be “nothing” and worships success of all kinds.
The Underground Man’s elderly servant. Apollon lives with the Underground Man and performs household tasks for him somewhat grudgingly. The Underground Man thinks that Apollon is constantly judging him, and that he is unforgivably vain. The Underground Man hates the way Apollon looks and talks.
Anton Antonych Setochkin
The head of Underground Man’s department in the ministry. Anton Antonych is the closest thing to a friend that the Underground Man has. The Underground Man occasionally borrows money from Anton Antonych and visits his home on Tuesdays when he has an urge to be social.
A military officer who treats the Underground Man dismissively in a tavern one night, thereby making himself the object of the Underground Man’s obsessive desire for revenge for several years. The Underground Man resents the officer for his rank, wealth, physical prowess, and confidence, but is also intimidated by him for these same reasons, and therefore can never make a move against him.