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Free Study Guide for Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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The young narrator continues to paint for Liza the horrible plight of prostitutes and warns her that if she does not leave the profession, she will age quickly, and her health will deteriorate. He adds that she is selling her soul, as well as her body. He further explains that his concern for her stems from genuine emotion. He even tells Liza that he might have fallen in love with and married her had he met her under different circumstances and had she not been a prostitute. Now, however, she will probably never marry, for no worthy man would take her as his wife.

As the young narrator paints his gruesome verbal picture of premature aging, poverty, neglect, abuse, and wasted life that are in store for Liza, he works himself into an emotional frenzy, and she is reduced to tears, weeping into the pillow. He suddenly realizes he has never seen such despair as Liza is displaying; as a result, "he is totally unnerved and wants to run away from the scene." Instead, he tries to calm her down and begs her for forgiveness for his cruelty. He even gives Liza his address and asks her to come for a visit.

Before he leaves, Liza shows the young narrator a letter she has recently received. It was written by a young medical student whom she had met at a dance. Having spent most of the evening with her and having no idea of her occupation, the student felt a tenderness for her, which he expresses in the letter. The Underground Man knows that she will always treasure this letter, for she will probably never again receive another one like it.


The young narrator gets carried away with his own words and gives a very lengthy and frightening description of the horrors that Liza is sure to endure as a prostitute. He claims that he is speaking out of genuine emotion for her, but the reader is not convinced of the veracity of this statement.

The young narrator's words are cruel. Liza has not entered the profession of prostitution out of choice; her parents have placed her there, and she sees no way to escape since she is in debt. As a result, the narrator's description sinks Liza into deep despair. She knows the truth of his words, but she also knows that she can do nothing about her current plight in life. She reacts by weeping uncontrollably.

Realizing how he has hurt Liza, the narrator tries to calm her down and begs for forgiveness, but the damage is already done. He makes matters worse by giving her his address and telling her to come for a visit. The reader knows that if she shows up at his door, which she will probably do, the unsociable narrator will not be kind to her.

It is clear that Dostoevsky pities Liza, for in her youth and innocence, she was manipulated by her parents. She does not want to be a prostitute and dreams of escaping to live a normal life and to fall in love. She treasures the letter written by the young medical student, for it expresses his tenderness for her. She instinctively knows that she will probably never again receive such a letter, for no decent young man will have an interest in her in the future.

It is important to realize that this chapter is very typical of the writing of Dostoevsky. In several of his books, including Crime and Punishment, he devotes much vivid, dark imagery and description to the horrors of prostitution, but his words never grow maudlin. Through his realistic details, Dostoevsky attempts to bring attention to the horrible life that a prostitute must endure. She must entertain drunk men who care nothing about her; she is enslaved to her customer, coming when he whistles and doing what he demands; she is often beaten and usually has bruises to show the mistreatment she endures; she is destroying her health because of her line of work; she is enslaved to the madam of the whorehouse, who is sure to kick her out when she ages or becomes ill; and she will probably die of consumption or some other disease at an early age and be buried in an unmarked grave. Dostoevsky gives such detailed descriptions in hopes of bringing about changes.



As the young narrator walks home through the snow, he reflects on his encounter with Liza. He is tired and confused by what has happened. He is also sorry that he has given the girl his address. The next morning the narrator is again haunted by his emotional, sentimental behavior with Liza. To take his mind off of her, he thinks about how foolishly he also behaved with Simonov. He decides he will go and visit Anton in order to borrow some money to repay Simonov.

After receiving the needed loan from Anton, the underground man comes home and writes Simonov a long letter of explanation in which he pins all the blame for his behavior on too much wine. After he is done, he sends the letter and the money to Simonov. These actions make him feel better for a short while. Soon, however, his thoughts return to Liza, and since she has his address, he begins to worry that she may actually come to his house and see how he lives.

After several days pass, the young narrator begins to calm down and worry less about Liza's showing up at his house. He even begins to daydream about her, imagining that she falls in love with him. To repay her devotion, he asks her to live with him.

To add to his woes, the young narrator goes through a bad time with Apollon, his servant. The man had always been difficult and rude, seeming to look down upon the narrator. One evening, when he is screaming at Apollon, Liza shows up at his door.


The young narrator is horrified that he actually gave his address to Liza and for days he fears that she may actually call upon him. He would not want to face her after he treated her so cruelly; neither would he want her to see the poverty in which he lived. After it seems that she will not show up at his door, the underground man begins to daydream about Liza, envisioning that she worships him as a hero. He even imagines the two of them living together after Liza falls madly in love with him. It is obvious from this daydream that the young narrator longs to have a relationship with another human being; at the same time, he fears such a relationship.

The young narrator also proves that he has some decency about him. He regrets how he has treated Liza. He also feels obligated to pay back the roubles that he owes to Simonov. Since he has no money, he goes to Anton, his boss, and borrows enough money to repay Simonov. He then writes his friend a long letter, sending him the money and blaming his behavior at the party on too much wine, even though he had nothing to drink.

The narrator also reveals that he can be easily intimidated. He has always disliked his servant, Apollon, for he feels the man looks down on him. To punish him, he sometimes withholds his pay, making Apollon beg for it. But he always gives in to Apollon and never thinks of dismissing him. He does, however, argue with him frequently. When Liza appears at his door, he is having one of his shouting matches with Apollon. The underground man is horrified that Liza has come to disturb his peace, and he is embarrassed that she has witnessed his poverty and his ranting and raving.

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Chapter Summary for Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky


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