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

CHAPTER 3

Summary

When the young narrator goes to visit Simonov, he finds two other former classmates, Trudolyubov and Ferfichkin, at his house. The three of them ignore the arrival of the underground man and continue to plan a farewell dinner for Zverkov, an officer and old schoolmate. Wanting to feel a part of things, the young narrator invites himself to the upcoming dinner party, even though he had always disliked Zverkov. It is obvious that the three schoolmates do not really want the young narrator to come to the dinner, for they try to talk him out of attending by reminding him that he was never really friends with Zverkov. The young narrator, however, will not be dissuaded.

After Trudolyubov and Ferfichkin leave, Simonov asks the underground man to pay his seven roubles for the party. Unfortunately, he does not have seven roubles, and he also remembers that he already owes Simonov fifteen roubles. Simonov tells the young narrator that they can settle things after the dinner party, which is to take place at the Hotel de Paris on the next evening.

As the young narrator walks towards home, he wonders why he had insisted on going to the party, especially since he is broke and has never liked Zverkov. He thinks about writing a note to Simonov, explaining that he cannot attend the party after all, but he knows that somehow the note will not be written and that he will definitely be at the Hotel de Paris for the party.

The young narrator is plagued with bad dreams the night after his visit with Simonov. He envisions the misery he felt when his relatives sent him off to boarding school. Since he was quiet and shy, he made no friends and devoted himself to his studies. As he rose to the top of the class in academics, the other students ignored and disliked him even more. When he managed to finally make one friend, the young narrator quickly drove him away because he was too demanding.

After sleeping fitfully because of the nightmare, the young narrator goes off to work, but he leaves two hours early in order to come home and prepare for the dinner party. As he gets dressed, he is ashamed of his shabby, stained clothes and fears that the others will laugh at his appearance and treat him rudely. To ease the pain he is feeling, he fantasizes that he woos the guests with his wit and wisdom and that he and Zverkov forgive each other and toast their friendship. When it is finally time to depart, he spends his last rouble on a carriage so that he can arrive at the Hotel of Paris in proper fashion.


Notes

This chapter continues the flashback to the time the narrator was a young man. Driven by loneliness, he goes to visit Simonov, an old schoolmate who has never particularly liked him. Arriving at his house, the young narrator encounters two other old classmates; the three of them are busy planning a party for Zverkov, another old classmate, whom the young narrator has never liked. Hearing about the dinner party, the young narrator, wanting to feel included, invites himself to the party, much to the obvious displeasure of his classmates. They, however, cannot talk him out of his decision to attend the dinner.

The irony of the situation is that the young narrator does not really want to go to the dinner party and knows that he should not go. He has never like Zverkov and always feels uncomfortable around old classmates. At the same time, he is absolutely determined to be at the party, in spite of the fact that he has no suitable clothes or money to pay for his part. As he says himself, "I had already fastened on to the idea and wouldn't let go." His contradiction again underlines Dostoevsky's theory of the duality of man. He believes one thing, but often does the opposite.

The flashback and the dream within the flashback clearly establish the misery, loneliness, and isolation of the young narrator at an early age. At boarding school, he was silent, shy, and ignored by others. When he did manage to finally make a friend, he quickly drove him away by trying to dominate him. It is obvious that the narrator's sense of rejection and his inability to bond with other human beings began at a young age and followed him into adulthood.

The young narrator longs to be accepted and befriended. Before leaving for the dinner party, which he knows will be a miserable failure, he dreams of being the life of the party; he imagines that everyone will love him because of his wit and brilliance. In reality, he knows that everyone will laugh at his shabby, stained clothes and ignore him as a person.

CHAPTER 4

Summary

The underground man reaches the Hotel de Paris at the appointed hour to find that nobody else is present. When he questions the staff, he finds out that the starting time has been moved back by an hour, but no one has bothered to tell him. As he waits for the others, he begins to dread the evening. He is pleasantly surprised, however, when Zverkov arrives and greets him nicely. The pleasantness does not last for long. When he finds out the narrator has been waiting for an hour, Zverkov laughs at him for staying alone for so long and for not ordering a drink. Of course, the underground man had no money to pay for a drink.

Things go downhill at dinner. Zverkov asks the underground man many personal questions. To the young narrator, it seems he is trying to embarrass him and mock him about his job and salary. When the underground man protests, they tell him "don't disturb the general harmony." After this insult, the other guests talk and laugh amongst themselves and totally ignore the narrator. As a result, he drinks more and more, becoming inebriated.

Feeling totally resentful about his treatment, the underground man insults Zverkov and challenges Ferfichkin to a duel. They ignore him, dismissing his rude behavior as that of a drunken man. When they retire from the table to the sofa, they do no invite the narrator to join them. He is left to pace across the room, which he does in a loud manner for several humiliating hours.

The other men decide to visit a whorehouse. The young narrator begs Simonov for more money, so he can join them. Even though he hesitates to do so, Simonov gives him the requested six roubles. The underground man then follows the others, determined to resolve his humiliation in one way or another. Of course since he is not a man of action, he will never happen.

Notes

The underground man is aware that he is setting himself up for pain and humiliation by going to a dinner party where he is clearly unwanted, but he cannot stay away. In the end, the evening turns out to be even more insulting than he anticipated.

The first insult comes when underground man arrives and no one else is present. He learns that the party has been moved back by an hour, but no one bothered to call him about the change. Since he is determined to stay, all he can do is sit and fret about the insult, for he does not have enough money to buy a drink for himself. His spirits improve when Zverkov arrives and is pleasant to him, but it does not last for long. At the dinner table, Zverkov questions him and then laughs at his job and salary. In retaliation, the young narrator tries to insult Zverkov, who tells him that he could never feel insulted by such an unimportant person.

As the other guests talk amongst themselves and ignore the narrator, he wishes there could be "a reconciliation with them." Knowing that there will not be one, the narrator stays and drinks until he is inebriated. Although he knows that he should just go home, he cannot make himself leave. Instead, as the others chat on the sofa, he paces across the room for three hours. The rest of them totally ignore him, causing him further humiliation. Then the ultimate humiliation comes when he has to beg Simonov for money in order to go to the whorehouse with the others.

The entire party scene underlines the behavior discussed during the first chapters of the book. Because he is a conscious man, the narrator realizes that the others are trying to humiliate him. He adds to the humiliation by feeling ashamed of his appearance and his behavior. To cover up his feelings, he tries to act bold, insulting Zverkov and challenging another guest to a duel. Of course, since he is not a man of action, everyone knows the duel will not take place.

Although the evening is miserable and humiliating for the young narrator, he is a glutton for pain. While he is being ignored, he paces across the room for three hours. Then when the others decide to go to a whorehouse, he insists upon joining them, even though he must borrow the money and knows he is unwanted. It is like he enjoys putting himself into painful situations.

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Chapter Summary for Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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