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Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Society and Class Theme

Notes from the Underground was written at a time when the plight of the lower classes was finally being recognized in Russia. The Underground Man himself, while not of the lowest class, does consider himself impoverished, much to his embarrassment and resentment. Many of his attempts at revenge are simultaneously driven and thwarted by his social standing as compared to that of his enemies.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Why does the Underground Man constantly obsess over his shabby appearance, modest income, or other signs of relative poverty? The guy is clearly educated and has a servant – is he really as impoverished as he believes?
  2. How does the Underground Man view money? When does he ask for it, when does he give it, and does he value wealth in general?
  3. How does the Underground Man define social status? Is it based only on money? (If you take his insecurity relative to Apollon, this seems unlikely.)
  4. Speaking of insecurity, what in the world is going on with the relationship between the Underground Man and his servant? Why doesn't he just fire Apollon?
  5. What is it about Liza's status as a prostitute that so appeals to the Underground Man?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In the Underground Man's view, moral and intellectual superiority ought to be synonymous with social and financial superiority.

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