Notes from Underground

Summary

Part II, Chapter VIII

Summary Part II, Chapter VIII

Analysis

The Underground Man’s cheerfulness the morning after he writes the letter to Simonov indicates the degree to which he has learned to delude himself about the realities of life. Convinced of his own virtues as a letter-writer, the Underground Man believes he has set everything right with his friend. This complacency not only demonstrates the Underground Man’s egotism, but also shows how the he finds ways to cope with frequent humiliation.

In characteristic fashion, the Underground Man alternates between looking forward to Liza’s visit and dreading the fact that she will see the shabbiness of his apartment. As we have seen, the Underground Man has an extraordinarily delicate ego, alternately exulting in his own intelligence and then plunging into shame. This tendency, combined with the fact that the Underground Man has never had a mutually respectful and pleasant relationship with anyone, supports the opinion the Underground Man has already expressed about love—that love means dominating someone until they have totally submitted. When the Underground Man considers his relationship with Liza, he feels that either he or she inevitably will have to be humiliated. Though he feels confident about his dominant role as the prostitute-rescuer at a brothel, he feels vulnerable to judgment and derision in his own apartment.

The Underground Man’s burning hatred of Apollon stems from a similar desire for domination. The Underground Man wants to feel he can dominate Apollon completely, as Apollon is his servant and depends on him for wages. The Underground Man’s attempts to make Apollon submit to his will are no more successful than his attempt to bump into the officer in the park. The Underground Man perhaps attributes some of his own strange pride to Apollon, just as some of his hatred of Apollon perhaps comes from his hatred of anyone he imagines is able to look down on him.