Study Guide

Notes from the Underground Part 2, Chapter 8

By Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Part 2, Chapter 8

  • Still, that truth isn't entirely clear to him – yet. First he has to get through his bewilderment at his own attitude towards Liza. So let's continue his story.
  • The Underground Man gets home and is shocked that he was so sentimental last night. He worries about what will happen if Liza really does come to visit him.
  • Whatever, he says – that doesn't matter right now. The issue at hand is saving his reputation with Simonov and Co.
  • In order to repay Simonov, he goes to Anton (the guy from work) and asks to borrow fifteen roubles. Fortunately, Anton is in a good mood and does so right away.
  • As soon as he gets home, he sits down and writes a long letter to Simonov, blaming himself for all the night's unfortunate events on account of his being drunk.
  • Afterwards, he beams with pride at his letter and its "aristocratic playfulness." He truly is a cultivated and learned man, he thinks.
  • (Despite all this, he knows that he was not in fact drunk, so that can't possibly be the cause of his behavior. So he admits that he's lying.)
  • He puts six roubles in the letter and asks his servant, Apollon, to bring it to Simonov.
  • Then he goes for a walk in the crowded streets. Something is growing confused in him, he says, but he doesn't really understand what's wrong.
  • He suspects it might have something to do with Liza and her potentially impending visit. He keeps trying to convince himself that he doesn't care if she ends up showing up, but in fact he's dreading it, in large part because he's worried about his slovenly appearance and disheveled home.
  • He starts to imagine what will happen if she does show up: Apollon will insult her, and he himself will get all nervous and fake a smile and have to lie even more. It doesn't sound like a good time.
  • But then the Underground Man considers this idea of "lying." After all, he says, he wasn't lying last night – he was being genuine with her.
  • His unease continues as he remembers the way Liza looked last night, with her distorted face and odd smile. He remarks, in retrospect, that he has always remembered her that way, even now, fifteen years later.
  • But, as we know, the Underground Man is not famous for his consistency. So the next day, he flip-flops again, this time berating himself for always exaggerating everything and for being such a romantic.
  • Then he congratulates himself for being able to change her life with so few words. He is a powerful man, indeed, he thinks.
  • This lasts for about, oh, ten seconds or so before he's full of wrath once again and ready to "crush" Liza should she come for a visit.
  • The days pass, as days tend to do. Liza never shows up, so the Underground Man starts to think she never will.
  • In the meantime, he's been dreaming. He fantasizes that he could take Liza under his wing and teach her everything he knows and then she would fall in love with him, and then she would profess her love and he would tell her nobly that he couldn't accept her love if it was out of obligation, and then she would passionately declare that no, no, it was true, real love, and then they would get married.
  • He gets so into this romantic fantasy that he compares himself to George Sand, a French author who basically wrote this sort of romantic literature. He also quotes more from the poetry of Nikolai Nekrasov. (The lines he quotes actually come from the same poem as the epigraph, so they're about a guy rescuing some woman, like a prostitute, from her degrading lifestyle. The lines here are the conclusion to the poem, in which the man offers for the woman to come be his wife.)
  • And then he goes back to calling Liza a "hussy."
  • But enough about her; let's talk about the Underground Man's servant, Apollon.
  • The Underground Man hates Apollon. In fact, Apollon is the bane of his existence. (And there was a lot of competition for that title, so this is really saying something.)
  • Apollon, he explains, is a pedant (i.e., someone who shows off his knowledge). He is a snob. He is also a tyrant towards the Underground Man. In fact, the only reason he doesn't "get rid of" the Underground Man is that he needs the wages every month.
  • What our narrator hates most about his servant, however, is his lisp, which Apollon himself finds to be dignified.
  • So…why didn't the Underground Man fire him?
  • Because, the Underground Man explains, Apollon was a part of his existence. He couldn't separate himself from his servant.
  • Just take a look at this scenario: the Underground Man is three days behind in paying him his wages. In this case, it's because he used the money on Zverkov's dinner, but in fact he's been meaning to try this non-payment thing out – as an experiment – for years.
  • Why? Because he wanted to make Apollon ask for his wages. He wanted him to be the first to speak (much like he wanted the officer on the Nevsky to be the first to move aside).
  • But the Underground Man admits that this could never happen. Even in this instance, he says, Apollon got the better of him. And now we jump back into the story.
  • Apollon, who still hasn't been paid, simply goes around all day staring at the Underground Man.
  • Finally, the Underground Man flips out and says essentially, "What do you want!?" and calls Apollon his "torturer."
  • When Apollon doesn't respond, the Underground Man rages some more, holds up the wages, and declares that he won't hand them over until Apollon apologizes with his head bowed.
  • Apollon is all, "Um, I don't think so," and adds that, if he wanted, he could have the Underground Man thrown in jail for calling him a "torturer" when in fact he was no such thing. Then he leaves.
  • The Underground Man, quite distraught, concludes that this is all Liza's fault.
  • And, speak of the devil, who should show up at that very moment but Liza, just as the Underground Man is getting ready to pummel his servant.
  • He freaks out and runs away, back into his room, leaving Liza alone and confused in the doorway to wish she hadn't come.

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