Notes from the underground



PART #2

CHAPTERS 1-2
Summary

The UM starts out talking about the office he worked in when he was twenty-four: apparently he hated everyone there and likewise, they hated him. The narrative then derails while the UM describes the Russian national character, which he believes eliminates fools and elevates Romantics who appreciate the "sublime and beautiful."
Returning to his description of his life, he notes that he had no friends and was always alone, spending most of his time reading. He admits to satisfying his private desires in various "dens of vice."
The UM then describes an incident in a bar one night in which an army officer moved him away from a billiard table as though he were a piece of furniture. He said nothing to the man, but fostered deep seething resentment for this insult. He would run in to this same officer in the street, and try to stare him down, but would always end up stepping out of the way for him (the officer never recognized him). He writes the officer a long letter listing his grievances, but does not send it. Instead he decid es to meet the officer in the street and bump against him instead of stepping aside. The event, when it happens, is anticlimactic: he and the officer bump shoulders, and the officer continues on his way, seeming not to have noticed. The officer is late r transferred, and the UM never sees him again.
The UM then describes how he would spend most of his time either depressed or dreaming of grand lives for himself, all of which involve becoming an important charitable man, beloved by all. He remains caught between two extremes--a hero or a hermit--with no middle ground between the two.
Sometimes, the UM immersed himself so deeply in the "sublime and beautiful" that he would be filled with a great love for mankind, and a deep desire to see others. On these days, he would generally go to visit his supervisor, with whom he was friendly, a lthough the visits were always disastrous--he would feel nervous and uncomfortable, unsure of what to say. These visits would temper his love of mankind for awhile.
One day, in the midst of one of his better moods, the UM decides to visit Simonov, his only friend from his school days. He did not have any other friends from school, having deliberately disassociated himself from what that painful period in his lif e. He expected Simonov to despise him, but this expectation only made him more intent on the visit. The chapter ends with him stepping into Simonov\'s apartment.
Commentary

For the first time, with the officer, we see the UM\'s self-described masochism in action. He feels insulted by the officer in the bar, and ashamed of his own cowardice. The UM is rarely capable of dealing with things actively. He goes back to his hole and broods for a matter of years. There is a very long stretch of time during which the UM was obsessed with the officer, from the moving in the bar to the push on the street. And all of this is just as the UM described--he becomes angry and insulted, a nd begins to find pleasure in his painful brooding.
The UM\'s description of his workplace is very revealing. We have been wondering what experiences led the UM to his antisocial views, and here we begin to get some answers. His vacillation between arrogance and fear is very evident--he either feels above his coworkers (more intelligent, more thoughtful), or beneath, like a coward or a slave. His arrogance makes them despise him more.
Lastly, the UM\'s delusions of grandeur further evidence his insecurity and obsession with being accepted by society. The officer comes to him and begs for acceptance. He has a flash of the "sublime" and wants to befriend his coworkers. He becomes a mil lionaire and donates all his money to various charities. Although these fantasies disgust him, he finds them to be "romantic" dreams which, despite his defense of the Russian Romantic in Chapter 1 of Part II, are pathetic to him. Here we find another de ep contradiction in the UM\'s character: he is disgusted