Notes from the Underground
How we cite our quotes:
I am a sick man.... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. (1.1.1)
Spite is the single most defining characteristic of the Underground Man.
I was lying when I said just now that I was a spiteful official. I was lying from spite. I was simply amusing myself with the petitioners and with the officer, and in reality I never could become spiteful. I was conscious every moment in myself of many, very many elements absolutely opposite to that. I felt them positively swarming in me, these opposite elements. (1.1.5)
The Underground Man suffers from being an extremist. The presence of happy or kind elements in him by no means precludes his being spiteful. And yet he is convinced that, because of these opposite elements, he can never truly be labeled a spiteful man.
Let us suppose, for instance, that it feels insulted, too (and it almost always does feel insulted), and wants to revenge itself, too. There may even be a greater accumulation of spite in it than in l'homme de la nature et de la vérité. The base and nasty desire to vent that spite on its assailant rankles perhaps even more nastily in it than in l'homme de la nature et de la vérité. For through his innate stupidity the latter looks upon his revenge as justice pure and simple; while in consequence of his acute consciousness the mouse does not believe in the justice of it. (1.3.2)
Why doesn't the Underground Man apply the same problems of primary causes to his spite as he does to the notion of revenge? He can't exact revenge because he can't justify the action, yet he feels spite without any justification at all…