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Notes from Underground

Summary

Part II, Chapters IV–V

Summary Part II, Chapters IV–V

Chapter V also gives us a first glimpse at how the Underground Man directs his own self-loathing at others. Earlier in the novel, we see him resenting people who may have reason to disdain him or judge him. However, his timidity and indecision before these “active figures” have always prevented him from acting on his hatred. He has therefore always turned his anger or frustration on himself. In this chapter, we encounter people over whom the Underground Man can safely exert some power. The coachman and the prostitute are both members of the lower classes. Moreover, as the Underground Man is paying both of them for their services, he already exerts financial power over them. For someone like the Underground Man, who constantly feels impotent in his daily interactions with others, the ability to feel superior to another is somewhat intoxicating. With the coachman, the Underground Man can express his frustration with himself through physical violence—something he could never have done with the officer or Zverkov. Although the Underground Man is still somewhat intimidated by the young prostitute, wondering what she thinks of his appearance, he takes a certain pleasure in the fact that she will not enjoy her time with him but will not be able to do much about it.