Notes from the Underground - Part I: Chapters III and IV Summary & Analysis

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Part I: Chapters III and IV Summary

Now comes one of the points regarding a man of action, as previously discussed. This man of action, confronted with a wall, will sincerely give up his charge as a lost cause—there is, after all, a wall as a deterrent. This man, according to the author, is a "normal man" and the writer envies the normal man. The man will even believe himself to be a mouse—though an "acutely conscious mouse". This "mouse" will have a different opinion of justice than others because of his "heightened sensibilities". Confronted with men who laugh at the little mouse, he'll slip back into his hole with a shrug of contempt for those others. This, according to the author, is a feigned contempt because he won't really believe it and will live its life wallowing in malice.

The author then goes into a discussion about the laws of nature. He points out that "two plus two makes four" and that's a fact—a law of mathematics. Just as it's impossible to deny that, it's impossible to deny the laws of nature. It's also inconceivable that nature would consult a person to determine if the laws are acceptable. The author says that the person who came to a wall and accepted that it is an indestructible obstacle has no choice but to do so just as a person who determines to find a way around has no choice but to seek out that alternative. He says that there's no doubt that the wall exists but that some people will blame themselves for the wall's very existence even if that's obviously an incorrect conclusion. The situation leads to pain, and the author will soon delve into that as a new subject.

He says that some people may wonder that he'll find pleasure in anything, even a toothache, and that he does so. He says that the person with a toothache moans and obviously finds pleasure in moaning because the moaning serves no other purpose. In the case of a toothache, the only relief lies in the hands of the Waganheims—dentists who advertised their services in Russia. As the author puts it, if that person wishes the toothache to stop, it will. He urges that everyone listen to the moans of an educated man and to note that the moans change after a couple of days. His moans irritate his family and serve no other purpose, but he continues to moan with "trills" and "flourishes". His family knows that he could moan without all the extra but he continues out of spite. The author then says that some readers by now may be feeling the same of his own writing, but that he will continue also out of spite. The author says he's relieved that the reader can see through him. He then questions whether any intelligent man can have self-respect.

Part I: Chapters III and IV Analysis

The "mouse" will recall all this humiliation for "forty years on end". The irony here is that the author has professed to be forty. It seems this mouse is a parallel to the author, though the author won't say this outright. But the mouse, according to the author, will allow these wrongs to fester for all those years and the wrongs will become more awful will every recollection and with the passage of time. Even on its deathbed, the mouse will remember all the wrongs done—including "the interest accrued" over the course of those years.

It's here that the author says that there's a "deliberate burying of yourself underground" that comes from the "loathsome half-despair, half-belief" of this situation. He says that it's a concept so difficult to grasp that people with "strong nerves" won't understand. He has referred to the dubious pleasure of being slapped and says that the reader might say the underground is understood by the writer precisely because he has been slapped. It seems that the author is again insisting that this man of the underground is not the author, even when the information indicates otherwise.

The author has again drawn a parallel between himself and this underground man. He says that he once had a toothache for a month, and that he played out his role of moaning to the limit so that everyone was sick of it. He says that he doesn't respect himself and that his jokes are bumbling and full of "self-distrust". On several occasions, he talks of his jokes as being not funny and fumbling attempts at humor.

This section contains 772 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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