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Free Study Guide for Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 10

Summary

The narrator ponders man's desires and points out how important they are. He feels it would be terrible to live in the Crystal Palace, a glass structure in London, where he would be inhibited from pursuing his desires. He knows he would not be comfortable sticking out his tongue there even if he wanted to, for the whole world could see him and judge him. The narrator feels that man should always be able to pursue his desires, which define his being. He also acknowledges that a man cannot be satisfied until he obtains his true desires; substitutes are never sufficient to erase the real desire.

Notes

This chapter is important because it reveals the attitude of the nameless writer that makes him the "underground man." He acknowledges that he, like all mankind, is driven by desires which he cannot fulfill, and since he cannot fulfill them, he lives an underground existence, separated from the repressive society that surrounds him. Most critics assume that Dostoevsky's key desire that is referenced in this section is the freedom to follow Christ. The critics also believe that the Russian censors struck a portion of this chapter, leaving it vague, confusing, and negative. In fact, Dostoevsky wrote to his brother in 1864 and complained that the censors had eliminated the passages that referenced man's need to have faith in Christ.


Underneath all the satire and criticism given by the narrator, there is a longing for a better state of being. Since he refuses to live on societal terms that he does not embrace, he feels he must live underground, where he suffers from isolation. Underneath his pain, however, there is a hope that someday his desire will be fulfilled and there will be a world he can believe in.

CHAPTER 11

Summary

The underground man is convinced that the best way for him to live for the time being is to do nothing. He envies the normal man who can act, but he does not want to be one of them, for he thinks they lack consciousness and intelligence. Still, he longs for something better in life, something better than the underground.

The narrator says he has written his book out of necessity, but has no intention of publishing it. He claims that if he were writing it for publication, he would not be as truthful about himself, for he would not want everyone to know the truth about him. He adds that some memories he is willing to share with others; but there are some memories that he has difficulty even admitting to himself.

The narrator claims that he does not believe everything he has written. Instead, he has composed the book in order to have something to think about and do as he is shut up in the underground. He also says that in writing the book he has tried to face his past and eradicate the memories that haunt him.

Notes

The narrator again returns to his first argument in the book - that conscious inertia (to choose to do nothing) is the best state for an intelligent man in the Russian society of his time. Unable to pursue his own desires or express a faith in Christ, the narrator feels he has been forced underground to live a life of nothingness. The nameless writer is aware that the underground is far from a solution for him, and he longs for something better, "something different, something I long for and can never find."

To help him think and occupy his time in the underground, the narrator has written this book, which he never intends to publish. He even admits that he does not believe everything that he has written, for he has had difficulty expressing his thoughts; but his written thoughts have helped him to deal with his memories, some that are even painful for him to admit to himself. One memory still haunts him, and he will reveal it in the next section of the book.

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Chapter Summary for Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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