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Free Study Guide for Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 9

Summary

When the young narrator appears before Liza, he feels angry and ashamed. He hates that she sees him in his old clothing and his poverty. He does, however, ask her to come in and sit down. He also sends Apollon out to get some tea and some food to eat. After the servant has left, the young narrator excuses himself for a moment and goes to his room. There he goes into a fit of hysteria, which Liza overhears. She comes and tries to comfort him.

Because he is embarrassed, the young narrator says nothing to Liza for five or ten minutes. During this time, he acknowledges to himself that he feels sorry for the girl, but he turns his heart against her. Even after she explains that she really wants to escape her job as a prostitute, he continues his silence and decides he will feel no compassion for her.

Since she is being ignored, Liza says she is going to leave. In order to stop her, the young narrator finally breaks his silence and turns on the girl, speaking rapidly and cruelly. He demands to know why she has come to see him since he had mocked her in the brothel. He now laughs at her ignorance for allowing herself to being treated poorly and allowing him to have power over her. He also tries to shame her for coming to his apartment.

When Liza realizes that the young narrator is sad and miserable, she comes to him and embraces him. The underground man reacts with another fit of hysterics, obviously to hide his true emotions for her and to avoid talking. Although the fit is real, he is also trying to keep Liza from knowing that she now has power over him.


Notes

The event that the young narrator has been dreading comes to pass when Liza arrives at his doorstep, looking for kindness and aid. When he faces her, he is full of anger that she is before him; he is also full of shame that she is seeing him in ragged clothing and poverty. Since he admits, "I can't be good," the only thing he knows to do is to strike out at her and make her miserable.

The book begins with the narrator's confession that he is a "spiteful" man. The depth of his spite finally comes out in this chapter. Incapable of reaching out to Liza in compassion or love, he can only treat her with tyranny and cruelty. At first he refuses to speak to her for five or ten minutes. When she threatens to leave, he panics and begs her to stay. He then berates her for coming to his house and belittles her for letting others have power over her. All the while, the young narrator feels an attraction to her. He admits that "he hated her....and was drawn to her."

The narrator's deep need to reach out with emotion becomes very apparent in this chapter. Since he is unable to really commune with Liza, his emotions rapidly deteriorate in to hysteria. When Liza tries to comfort and embrace him with genuine concern, he spurns her attempts. In reality, he is further embarrassed that she has seen him out of control and behaving so poorly. He had wanted to be a hero in her eyes, but he has played the part of a fool.

It is ironic that the young narrator, who is supposedly very intelligent and extremely conscious, cannot control his emotions or show compassion to another human. In contrast, Liza, a young, unintelligent prostitute is filled with kindness and humanity. It is also ironic that the underground man has fantasized about being in love with Liza; however, when she appears in person rather than in a dream, he can only treat her cruelly.

CHAPTER 10

Summary

After fifteen minutes, the young narrator dares to look around to see what Liza is doing. When he sees her sitting on the floor, he feels himself growing irritated that she is still present. He wants her to leave so he can return to his isolated, undisturbed underground existence.

After a short while, Liza announces that she is going to leave. The young narrator takes her hand and stuffs some money into it. He admits that it was not an act of kindness; instead he acted from malice and spite. As soon as she leaves, he regrets his action and tries to call her back; but she is no where to be seen. When he restlessly returns to his room, he spies the money he has given her wadded on the table. Infuriated that she has insulted him in this manner, he quickly dresses and hurries out of the house to find her. As he looks everywhere for Liza, he wonders about his real motivation. He realizes that he genuinely cares about her; he wants to "fall down before her . . . .to kiss her feet to entreat her forgiveness!"

The young narrator was unable to find Liza and has never seen her again. The memory of her, however, still haunts him. As a result, he has written down her story, both as an explanation and a punishment.

Notes

The narrator's last moment with Liza is filled with malice and spite. When she is leaving, he tries to insult her by stuffing money in her hand. Ironically, it is she who has the final word. After she disappears into the street and out of his life forever, the narrator finds the crumpled money on the table in his room. His reaction is to throw on his clothes and rush out to find her. His efforts, however, are unsuccessful, and he never sees her again. He has failed to reach out to the only person who has ever tried to offer him understanding and compassion. As a result, his whole life has been haunted by memories of Liza and how cruelly he treated her. He even admits that he has written her story into his book as a punishment to himself.

As he has reflected on Liza through the years, the underground man has surely realized that she is a superior person to himself. There was a pure and simple honesty and compassion about her; she also had a natural ability to reach out to others, as evidenced by her concern for his hysteria and the attraction of the medical student to her. In contrast, his honesty in telling the story is not pure and simple; it is a calculated and intellectual effort on his part to purge himself of guilt for his mistreatment of the one person in life who cared about him.

At the end of the book, the young narrator again reminds the audience that he is an "antihero" and challenges them to "take a closer look!" He then suggests that they will all see something of themselves in his antiheroic being. To the very end, he remains a spiteful person, bringing the book full cycle.

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Chapter Summary for Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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