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... Zverkov, displaying the inner contradiction that makes Zverkov despise himself and his own values. The UM's description of his schooldays is predictable. The only new important piece of information that is the UM's family history -- he was an orphan. The UM represents a character whose basic problems (before whatever insanity he has now) are insecurity and a need for acceptance, coupled with a constant feeling of alienation.
The UM has never, throughout his entire life, had the benefit of a central group of people by whom he was accepted and loved. And, lacking that center, one can see how he entered his early school days feeling slighted and abandoned by the world, and carried these feelings throughout his adulthood. Lastly, we should mention the UM's notion of "life. " His attendance at the dinner was based, in part, on his feeling that not going would be cowardly, avoiding "life. " When he is in the carriage, intent on slapping Zverkov in face, he prepares himself f or a "confrontation" with real-life. The UM seems to equate "life" with conflict.
Or rather, he seems to equate life with emotionally satisfying contact with other people, and the only avenues of emotion open to him are resentment, anger, and conflict. The UM knows that his dark cellar forbids him to experience real "life"; he remains aware of his own predicament, his own interminable alienation. He seems to think that by immersing himself in "life, " he might somehow put himself back into society, and in some way regain his dignity. The UM wakes up next to the prostitute and makes conversation with her. She is cold and removed, until they start talking about another prostitute who died that morning of consumption. The conversation sparks something in the UM, and he gives the pr osti tute, Lisa, an impassioned speech about how she is doomed to the same sordid fate if she stays in this life; he then starts babbling about homes and families and love in a somewhat nonsensical way.
Lisa tells him that he is talking as if reading from a book. The UM continues, painting a vivid picture of the sordid horrors awaiting Lisa if she remains a prostitute. He criticizes the baseness of her profession, and notes how it is destroying her both physically and emotionally. Lisa is finally moved to tears, and shows the UM a letter she has from a young man she met at a party, in which he professes his love for her. Before leaving, the UM gives her his address, and tells her to visit him. The next morning, the UM wakes up amazed at his "sentimentality" the night before.
He clearly has grave doubts about Lisa visiting. He writes what he considers to be a very well-phrased letter to Simonov, paying him back and apologizing for his behavior (by blaming it on the wine); he gives the letter to Apollon, his manservant. Over the next few days, he throws himself into worrying about whether or not Lisa will visit. This leads into an aside about Apollon, who appears to have the ability to dri ve the UM mad with shame and anger. One evening, in the midst of the UM's concerns about Lisa's arrival -- he vacillates between fantasies about a future for the two of them together and total apathy) -- and torment over Apollon's judgmental stares, Lisa arrives. They sit down to tea, and the UM has a fit of anger at Apollon, explaining to Lisa how he torments him.
Then, feeling ashamed of his house and himself, he tries to make Lisa feel awkward and unwelcome by not speaking to her. When she finally speaks, he explodes at her, disavowing hi s "pathetic speeches" the night before as sentimental rubbish, and telling her that he only humiliated her because he had been humiliated that evening. He then continues on a rant about his own pathetic state, describing how much he hates her for finding him like this, and how ashamed he is of himself in every way. Lisa's response to all of this is, surprisingly, tender understanding. The narrative then skips ahead. The two have had sex, and the UM has once again exploded in anger at Lisa.
She is alienated from him entirely now, crying in the bedroom. When she leaves, he presses some money into her hand, in an attempt to be as issue ting and demeaning as possible; Lisa leaves the money behind when she goes. The UM changes his mind and goes after her, but she is gone. The notes end with the UM, back in his later state, offering his thoughts on the pathos of "real life" as compared to life in literature, but noting that he is proud of his decision to live in the emotional extremes of the real world rather be "average. " A brief parenthetical note informs us that the Notes do not end here, that this "paradoxical fellow" wrote more, but that we may stop reading here.
In this final portion we see a reversal of the chain of abuse. Until now, we have seen countless examples of the UM being abused; now, we see that humiliation reflected onto Lisa. Throughout the Notes, we have seen the UM take out his aggression on himself to somehow satisfy his desire for revenge. In this section we see what is perhaps a more sinister example of his emotional dysfunction -- since he is powerless with Zverkov and his friends, he seeks a position of power with Lisa.
He humiliates her by pointing out the baseness of her profession, and elevates himself by trying to "save" her from her terrible fate. At the beginning of Chapter 9, the UM notes that he would make Lisa "pay dearly" for "this. " We might ask ourselves what "this" is: his shameful house, his clothes, his nervous demeanor, his ugly face, his miserable future. Lisa becomes the reposit ory for all the aggression he has built up against those he perceives as having slighted him throughout life. In this way, the UM moves from victim to victimizer. The UM's emotional shortcomings bring us to some sobering ideas about the character. The UM himself notes, at one point, that he could never have really loved Lisa or anyone else, since to him love meant tyranny and moral superiority.
The UM has remain d alone and unloved his entire life, and has spent nearly all his emotional energy trying to protect himself from what he perceives as the shaming insults and jibes of others. How can someone like that possibly build the emotional tools to love, or be lo ved, or interact with others in society with any success? In Part I of Notes from Underground, we are presented with a man estranged from society. He is acutely sensitive and totally unable to handle himself with other people.
He is too timid, it seems, to address any of the many "wrongs" visited on him directly, so he develops a masochistic system in which he finds a way to take out his aggression on other people by hurting himself (like going to visit Simonov, or going to the dinner, or not going to the doctor). This evokes his nihilistic side -- the UM refuses to accept what he calls the "twice-two-makes-four" rules of rationality that govern society. He becomes a little confused on this point: at times he appears to be saying that he refuses to accept these laws because they hamper his free ch one as an individual, and at other times he appears to be bemoaning people's fixation with proving their free will. The confusion is as important as the clarity -- it is most important to recognize the attack that the UM makes in his mind on the structure s of society.
Part I can be seen as a guide to Part II, which can be viewed as a model series of events that illustrate the UM's inability to interact with other people. By the end of the Notes, the UM is an indisputably ambiguous character. He refers to home lf as an "anti-hero, " but the UM is neither hero nor anti-hero. Remember that Dostoevsky strove to depict real people. By the time we meet him, the UM has suffered a lifetime of fearing real life, a lifetime apart from the "real" world, confined instead to isolation, solitude, and masochism.
Bibliography: Internet- Spark notes
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