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Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground


by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notes from the Underground Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary

  • When the Underground Man gets to the Hôtel de Paris, he finds out from the waiter that, actually, the dinner is at six, not five.
  • The Underground Man stands around awkwardly and hears the sound of laughter from the various other diners, which he finds to be repulsive.
  • So repulsive, in fact, that when Simonov, Trudolyubov, and Ferfitchkin arrive with Zverkov, he's actually glad to see them, because they provide relief.
  • Zverkov walks in at the head of the pack and kindly greets the Underground Man.
  • Of course, this angers our narrator, who finds his demeanor to be condescending. The Underground Man also notes that Zverkov speaks with a lisp, which is new – he never spoke this way before.
  • Turning to the other three men, the Underground Man asks why they weren't there at five, which is what they agreed to yesterday. Apparently it was Simonov who forgot to tell him of the change, but he just shrugs and doesn't apologize for his error as he heads off to order their hors d'oeuvres.
  • Interestingly enough, Trudolyubov takes the Underground Man's side, muttering in low tones about how rude Simonov was.
  • At last, they all sit down the dinner. Zverkov starts making friendly conversation with the Underground Man by asking him about work.
  • Not surprisingly, the Underground Man takes offense at this. He figures that Zverkov can tell that he's embarrassed and is trying to make him feel comfortable. Oh, the nerve!
  • And then, our narrator starts mocking Zverkov's stutter by imitating his speech.
  • Zverkov tries to ignore it and continues asking questions, this time about the Underground Man's salary.
  • The Underground Man flips out and asks, "Why are you cross-examining me?", but he reveals his salary nevertheless.
  • The men collectively observe that his salary is rather small. And it's only downhill from here, folks.
  • As the Underground Man gets more and more defensive about his financial situation, Zverkov tries to change the subject. Finally, Trudolyubov tells the Underground Man to take a chill pill already, because this is supposed to be a friendly dinner.
  • Zverkov, still trying to change the subject, starts talking about how he almost got married a few days ago.
  • The Underground Man sits there, fuming, because everyone is listening to Zverkov's "burlesque narrative" instead of paying any attention to him. He starts getting himself all worked up again; these men shouldn't think they're doing him a favor, he insists – it is he who is doing them an honor by gracing their dinner party with his attendance. Right…
  • He suddenly decides that he should get up and leave at once.
  • Of course, he doesn't move. (This reminds us of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Check it out on Shmoop.) Instead, he starts to drink. A lot. Zverkov, meanwhile, continues to tell his stories, and the men continue to ignore our narrator.
  • When Trudolyubov makes a toast, the Underground Man refuses to drink until he makes his own speech first.
  • Uh-oh.
  • The Underground Man begins. First of all, he says, he hates overly stylized phrases and the people who use them. He also hates men who wear corsets.
  • He goes on. He dislikes crude stories and the people who talk about them. (This phrase is actually borrowed from a character in Gogol's Dead Souls.) He loves truth, justice, and honesty.
  • It's right about there that he cuts himself off and just raises his glass for the toast, managing to insult Zverkov and his womanizing in the process.
  • Zverkov keeps his cool, even though the others are ready to punch the Underground Man in the face.
  • The Underground Man, on the other hand, does not keep his cool, and challenges Ferfitchkin to a duel the next day. Ferfitchkin immediately agrees, but all the men laugh at the proposal.
  • So our narrator just keeps drinking. He tells the men that he knows they want him to leave, but he's going to stay anyway, just because he can. And if he wants to sing, he'll sing.
  • He doesn't sing.
  • We guess he doesn't want to.
  • Then he just sits there in silence and waits for the men to talk to him.
  • They don't. Instead, they move away from the table and to the lounge, without inviting the Underground Man to come with them. So he just sits at the table and sulks while listening in to their somewhat intellectual conversation.
  • Then he starts pacing back and forth in the restaurant, to prove to the men that he doesn't need them. (OK…) This goes on for three very painful hours, during which the Underground Man shudders to think that he will remember this terrible moment for the rest of his life. He wishes the men could realize how wonderfully cultured he is, what thoughts he is capable of having.
  • At eleven, the men rise to leave. By this point, the Underground Man is sweaty and anxious.
  • He runs over and begs the men for forgiveness. Ferfitchkin mocks him by suggesting he is afraid of tomorrow's duel.
  • The Underground Man insists that this is not the case; it's just that he wants friendship. He apologizes to Zverkov for insulting him.
  • Zverkov responds that under no circumstance could the Underground Man possibly insult him. (The implication is that our narrator is so beneath Zverkov, Zverkov doesn't even register him on the radar.)
  • With that, the men head out to go to a brothel. Simonov lags behind to tip the waiter, and the Underground Man takes this opportunity to corner the man.
  • This is not fun to watch. The Underground Man now begs Simonov to lend him six more roubles so that he can go with them to "the next place," which is a brothel. (We told you, painful to watch.)
  • Simonov is all, "Are you joking, man!?" but when the Underground Man doesn't let up he flings the six roubles at him with an angry "You have no shame!" before he leaves.
  • Left alone, the Underground Man concludes that he will go after the men. Either he will get forgiveness from Zverkov, or he will slap him in the face. Either one will do.

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