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Story of the Underground Man

The Underground Man when confronted with reality sinks into his world of fantasy, and yet, realize the depth of his fantasy in the real world.

The Underground Man went to all sorts of strange places in an effort to amuse himself. Once he saw a man being thrown out of a window of a tavern and entered the tavern in the hopes that someone would throw him out of the window as well. Upon entering the tavern he is moved aside by an officer who fails to even notice him. This refusal to notice him was worse than if he had gotten a beating. What the Underground Man wanted was a quarrel in the literary sense, but he was simply ignored as if he did not exist. This sort of thing would not occur in the fantasies books he read, and so the Underground Man was insulted by the officer’s behaviour.

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The Underground Man realized that all he had to do to seek a confrontation with the officer was a protest, “and they surely would have thrown me out of the window…”. The Underground knew that he was not a “coward at heart,” but he was fearful of being humiliated and laughed at by his peers. The Underground really wanted to protest being moved aside and ignored by the officer, but he was fearful of doing so because he would have been forced to speak about a “point of honor,” which he could not have done unless he spoke about it in literary terms, this “ literary language” did not exist in ordinary everyday speech.

The Underground realized that his way of seeing the world was different from ordinary folks, and that “point of honor” was something that did not exist in reality, but was invented through books. It was here that the Underground Man realized that if he persisted in his confrontation with the officer, using literary language, people would of “split their sides with laughter…before he [officer] might…throw me out the window.”

The officer thus becomes the subject of the Underground Man’s hatred; he follows the officer around seeking some sought of revenge, because he cannot handle being ignored. As a result, the Underground Man planned a plot carefully, and the success of the plot depended on whether the officer noticed him or not. He needed to make the encounter with the officer into something that was unreal.

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He thus chose to bump into the officer in hopes that the official notices him, and treats him as an equal. The Underground Man seemed to understand enough about reality to comprehend that a person appearance governs whether the officer will notice him or not. In a materialistic society, the Underground Man understood that people are judged and valued based upon their wealth and status; not what’s inside of them. The Underground Man accepted the rules of the real world and acknowledges that people are judged based upon their status; which is why he borrowed money to purchase clothes so that he would be dress better for his encounter with the office. This way, he would appear, superficially, as an equal.

After the Underground Man’s episode with the officer, he felt a deep remorse, but he soon learned to accept it and sank into deeper and deeper in his fantasy retreat (dreams). His attack on reality continued and his only escape was in his dreams of love, rapture and happiness. In these dreams, he felt so much pleasure that it was difficult to reemerge into reality. The Underground Man realized that this “love might have existed only in fantasy…but it was so abundant…that to apply it in practice…would have been too much of a luxury.”

In order to plunge back into reality and society, the Underground Man felt compelled to see Anton Antonych and listen to a number of civil servants talk about their work and success. The Underground Man never took part in any or the conversation because he realized that he could not express himself where real people are concerned and knew only how to speak of characters from the novels he read.

After his visit with Anton, the Underground Man went to Simonov apartment, his former classmate, who was discussing a farewell dinner for Zverkov, another former classmate. The Underground Man quickly proceeded to invite himself to the farewell dinner against the protest of the other classmates. The Underground Man is extremely concerned about the opinion of the others and reproaches himself for not having anything decent to wear. Though he feels morally superior to others, the Underground Man realize enough about reality to understand that he will be judged by the clothing he wears rather than his intellect.

The Underground Man arrived at the restaurant for dinner at the expected time, but it turned out that the hour was changed, and no one informed him, which meant he had to wait for everyone to arrive. He found his waiting humiliating because the waiters ignore him, “bringing in candles only near the end of his wait.” The Underground Man complained to Ferfichkin, but Zverkov interrupts saying you could of “simply asked for your dinner without waiting.” This statement was to show the Underground Man that he simply did not fit in, because an ordinary person in this position would of ordered his food or left.

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The Underground Man is annoyed and insulted by his former classmates and decides to infuse the dinner party by challenging Ferfichkin to a duel, and is insulted when everyone laughs at him because he seems so ridiculous. Trudolyubov simply says “his off his head,” “playing games with himself.” This statement shows that the Underground Man’s former classmates knew that he was living in a fantasy world. The Underground Man then asks for Zverkov friendship because he insulted him; in response, Zverkov tells the Underground Man that you “can never…insult me.”

The Underground Man begs Simonov for six rubles and is so into his fantasy that he claims “everything depends on [his going the brothel], my whole future, all my plans…” The Underground Man humiliate himself by begging Simonov for money so that he could go to the brothel, Simonov not wanting the Underground Man to go to the brothel reluctantly gives him the money.

Heading to the brothel, the Underground Man imagines that “either they will all fall down on their knees and plead for my friendship…or I will slap Zverkov.” The Underground Man knew enough about reality to realize the possibility of his schoolmates begging for his friend was not reality; that the only realistic outcome was for him to slap Zverkov in the face, which he realized he probably would not do.

Reality looms for the Underground Man who decides “wouldn’t it be better…to go straight home.” The Underground then starts to imagine that he took off jail and released after fifteen years for slapping Zverkov; in this fantasy, he gets out and Zverkov and that he’ll be happily married with a “grown-up daughter” and would forgive him, and then would go away where no one will see him again. The Underground Man knew this illusion was a pure fantasy because right underneath the surface he was aware “with perfect clarity that this was all from [a sense in] Silvio and from Lermontov’s Masquerade.”

Upon his arrival at the brothel, the Underground Man’s schoolmates are already gone. Prepared to seek revenge and relieved to find that his schoolmates had already left the Underground decides to relieve his frustration on Liza a prostitute at the brothel. He begins to speak to Liza about prostitutes who died from their work and not being remembered in death. He explained that the prostitute was nothing more than a slave to the madam. That if she continued in that life she would owe the madam and would not be able to escape out of that life.

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He spoke about love, life, and happiness and, as Liza became interested and began to listen more attentively, he spoke more and more vehemently; and began to feel what he was speaking about as if he had some sought of experience in the matter. When he was finally finished, Liza commented that his speech sounded like something out of a book. Her comments “stung” the Underground Man because it “wasn’t what [he] expected.”

The Underground Man was upset with himself for giving Liza his address and was fearful of her showing up at his house and seeing how poor he really was. The Underground Man is driven by spite and curses his sentimental outburst of feelings with Liza.

When Liza shows up at the Underground Man’s house and sees him in his poverty he despises her for causing him shame. He then begins to complain about Apollon and burst into tears. Liza tells him that she wants to leave the brothel and the Underground Man tells her that he went to the brothel to fight with his schoolmate and that since he could not avenge himself on Zverkov that he choose to humiliate her.

When he explained to her that he hated her for seeing him in his poverty and wanted her to leave, instead of Liza leaving she embraced him and he realized that their roles reversed and it was not her who felt sorry for him. This role for him was different and he hated her all the more because he enjoyed his world in the underground and Liza brought him to reality and made him aware of his fantasy world, which did not like.

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Story of the Underground Man. (2021, Feb 09). Retrieved March 22, 2023, from