Notes from the Underground - Part I: Chapters V, VI and VII Summary & Analysis

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Part I: Chapters V, VI and VII Summary

The writer says that there are some cases that can't be blamed on the laws of nature. In fact, he would get himself into trouble as a child when he hadn't done anything wrong, seemingly for the opportunity to say that it wouldn't happen again. He says that penitence would be a lie, and that in itself was loathsome. He says the reader may ask why he would do such a thing and answers that it was better than sitting with "folded arms". He says that he made up a life for himself and sometimes pretended offense at something that didn't happen. By the time he was done, he'd have convinced even himself of the offense. He did this so often that he no longer has any control over himself. He says he even tried this with regard to love and did fall in love twice in this way.

The dull, unlearned man takes an "immediate" cause and convinces himself that there's a reason for whatever his current activity may be. The author says that's the difference between him and an unlearned man. For example, a man who believes he has been wronged will find the primary cause of his action to be the quest for justice. The author, taking the same action in the same circumstance, sees himself acting only out of spite. Therefore, the wrong is no longer at issue but becomes—like the toothache—only something to complain about but not something that's the fault of anyone.

He then dwells on the greats of the era—the painters and writers. He says that if he were in a position to do so, he would drink to those who create those beautiful things and in doing so, would grow a large belly and a double chin. He says that people would then say—simply because of his belly and chin—that he must be somebody.

The writer says that anyone can understand what is—and is not—in his best interests and that no one would actually do anything that is not in his best interests. The author says that it seems no one will willingly go off "into the dark" to seek his own way when there's an established route available. But the fact is that some will do just that and for no reason other than that stubbornness pleases them. The fact that the person has the right to do that is a precious right, according to the author.

The writer describes a "friend". This is a person everyone knows who will eloquently tell everyone the facts of truth and reason, but then will act in the opposite. Another example is that of Cleopatra. She is said to have stuck pins into the breasts of her slave girls just to hear them cry. Man today has learned more than in those barbaric ages but still doesn't always act within the laws of reason. That ability to do the opposite of what is thought to be right and true is what the author describes as the "most advantageous advantage" available to man. He says that "independent wishing" is what man wants, regardless of the consequences.

Part I: Chapters V, VI and VII Analysis

The author says that the reason he considers himself intelligent is that he's never accomplished a single thing, and has never even begun anything. He asks what would happen if the true vocation of the intelligent man were to simply babble? That babbling, according to the author, would be like "pouring water over a sieve". He seems to be indicating that there would be nothing accomplished at all; therefore, the intelligent man will not waste his time in "babble". The author then notes that if he were just too lazy to take action, he could take some pride in that. At least in that case he would be something. He says that being lazy could be an entire career and that he could spend his time respecting himself for accomplishing this.

It's noteworthy that the author again spends time talking of appearances. He will at some point say that a yellow stain on the leg of his pants will ruin his evening. He will borrow money to update his coat to the latest fashion. He talks about his own facial expression and how hard he works to make it appear intelligent. Here, he talks of the fact that a lazy man who does nothing but sit around and drink to the artists and writers would have a specific look—a large belly and double chin. While most might not think those positive attributes, the author says he would be happy if people could look at him and discover that he's that person.

The author goes into a discussion of whether man has free will to determine his own actions or whether his actions are dictated by the laws of nature. The author never comes out with a clear opinion that he believes one over the other. He does say that if the time comes when reason can be ordered—as mathematic laws are ordered—life will be orderly, but would likely be bored. That in itself could produce variety as he points out that pins may be stuck into people out of sheer boredom.

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