Notes from the Underground Study Guide

Notes from the Underground

Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notes from the Underground is a novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky, divided into two parts. In the first part, the protagonist discusses his suffering, ennui, inactivity and criticisms of logic, society, ethics and human rationality. The second part of the novella describes his interactions with Liza, a prostitute, to whom he describes her future of destitution. Liza comes to visit him but he rudely dismisses and insults her, ashamed at his own squalid apartment. He is neither able to act like the rest of society nor act better than it.

Notes from the Underground Quotes

  • I am a sick man… I am a wicked man. An unattractive man.
    • Part 1, Chapter 1 (page 7)
  • It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not know how to become anything; neither spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything.
    • Part 1, Chapter 1 (page 8)
  • ...что слишком сознавать — это болезнь, настоящая, полная болезнь.
    • To be acutely conscious is a disease, a real, honest-to-goodness disease.
    • Part 1, Chapter 2 (page 9)
  • Once it's been proved to you that you're descended from an ape, it's no use pulling a face; just accept it. Once they've proved to you that a single droplet of your own fat must be dearer to you than a hundred thousand of your fellow human beings and consequently that all so-called virtues and duties are nothing but ravings and prejudices, then accept that too, because there's nothing to be done.
    • Part 1 Chapter 3 (page 14)
  • Granted I am a babbler, a harmless vexatious babbler, like all of us. But what is to be done if the direct and sole vocation of every intelligent man is babble, that is, the intentional pouring of water through a sieve?
    • Part 1, Chapter 5 (page 19)
  • When… in the course of all these thousands of years has man ever acted in accordance with his own interests?
    • Part 1, Chapter 7 (page 20)
  • And what is it in us that is mellowed by civilization? All it does, I’d say, is to develop in man a capacity to feel a greater variety of sensations. And nothing, absolutely nothing else. And through this development, man will yet learn how to enjoy bloodshed. Why, it has already happened . . . . Civilization has made man, if not always more bloodthirsty, at leastmore viciously, more horribly bloodthirsty.
    • Part 1, Chapter 7 (page 23)
  • The best definition of man is: a being that goes on two legs and is ungrateful.
    • Variant translation: If I had to define man it would be: a biped, ungrateful.
    • Part 1, Chapter 8 (page 28)
  • The formula 'two plus two equals five' is not without its attractions.
    • Part 1, Chapter 9 (page 31)
  • To care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it's good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant, too, to smash things.
    • Part 1, Chapter 9 (page 32)
  • Every man has some reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has others which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But finally there are still others which a man is even afraid to tell himself, and every decent man has a considerable number of such things stored away. That is, one can even say that the more decent he is, the greater the number of such things in his mind.
    • Part 1, Chapter 11 (page 35)
  • The characteristics of our "romantics" are absolutely and directly opposed to the transcendental European type, and no European standard can be applied to them. (Allow me to make use of this word "romantic"— an old-fashioned and much respected word which has done good service and is familiar to all.) The characteristics of our romantics are to understand everything, ; to refuse to accept anyone or anything, but at the same time not to despise anything; to give way, to yield, from policy; never to lose sight of a useful practical object (such as rent-free quarters at the government expense, pensions, decorations), to keep their eye on that object through all the enthusiasms and volumes of lyrical poems, and at the same time to preserve "the sublime and the beautiful" inviolate within them to the hour of their death, and to preserve themselves also, incidentally, like some precious jewel wrapped in cotton wool if only for the benefit of "the sublime and the beautiful." Our "romantic" is a man of great breadth and the greatest rogue of all our rogues, I assure you .... I can assure you fromexperience, indeed. Of course, that is, if he is intelligent. But what am I saying! The romantic is always intelligent, and I only meant to observe that although we have had foolish romantics they don't count, and they were only so because in the flower of their youth they degenerated into Germans,and to preserve their precious jewel more comfortably, settled somewhere out there — by preference in Weimar or the Black Forest. to see everything and to see it often incomparably more clearly than our most realistic minds see it
    • Part 2, Chapter 1 (pages 45-46)
  • I could never stand more than three months of dreaming at a time without feeling an irresistible desire to plunge into society. To plunge into society meant to visit my superior, Anton Antonich Syetochkin. He was the the only permanent acquaintance I have had in my life, and I even wonder at the fact myself now. But I even went to see him only when that phase came over me, and when my dreams had reached such a point of bliss that it became essential to embrace my fellows and all mankind immediately. And for that purpose I needed at least one human being at hand who actually existed. I had to call on Anton Antonich, however, on Tuesday— his at-home day; so I always had to adjust my passionate desire to embrace humanity so that it might fall on a Tuesday.
    • Part 2, Chapter 2 (page 56)
  • ... people only count their misfortunes; their good luck they take no account of. But if they were to take everything into account, as they should, they'd find that they had their fair share of it.
    • Part 2, Chapter 6 (page 86)
  • Yes— you, you alone must pay for everything because you turned up like this, because I'm a scoundrel, because I'm the nastiest, most ridiculous, pettiest, stupidest, and most envious worm of all those living on earth who're no better than me in any way, but who, the devil knows why, never get embarrassed, while all my life I have to endure insults from every louse — that's my fate. What do I care that you do not understand any of this?
    • Part 2, Chapter 9 (pages 108-109)

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