Underground Man: The central figure,
indeed the anti-hero, of Notes from the Underground, is the Underground Man. It's important
to note that although the UM shares many of Dostoevsky's own viewpoints about romanticism, the enlightenment
and other issues, the author and his character must be clearly separated. Dostoevsky himself alludes
to this in his prologue. Though the UM says that his liver is diseased, the reader soon learns that
the UM's illness is more than physical: indeed it's a psychological disease-he is hyperconscious.
He admits that day after day he rushes home to hide in his "corner," only to anguish and "gnaw" at himself,
reconsidering the actions he has taken that day. At the same time, however, he finds a kind of
pleasure in the humiliation and even despair caused by this "overly acute consciousness."
Officer: The officer plays a
role in the Noteswhen he ignores the UM's presence in a billiard room. Dostoevsky's anti-hero
stalks this man, finding out all about him, hoping to challenge him to a duel. Every day he imagines
that as the two of them pass each other on the street, he will intentionally bump the officer, instead
of yielding to him as he always does. One day the UM finally does find the resolve to carry out
his mission, and the two bump shoulders. Though the officer pretends that he doesn't notice the
incident, the UM knows that he does notice, and he declares victory for having "publicly placed [himself]
on an equal social footing with him."
Simonov, Ferfichkin, Trudolyubov, Zverkov: These are former schoolmates of the UM. After
he awakens from his three months of dreaming and wants to enter real society, he invites himself to
a dinner party that these men have planned. Though the men try to ignore the UM, he forces them
to notice him by being extremely rude. Later, he casually apologizes for his actions that evening
in a letter.
Liza is the prostitute who the UM befriends one evening and later invites to his home. Though
both of them are depressed and vulnerable, she ultimately proves her own acceptance of true love-that
is, selfless, Christian love-a love the UM is unable to exhibit, though he genuinely wishes he can.