Part 1 Chapter 1: Dostoevsky immediately
introduces us into the mind of his forty-year-old Underground Man, who describes himself as a "sick",
"spiteful", "most unpleasant man" with a liver disease for which he refuses to seek treatment "out of
spite." Throughout the man's speech, he addresses a formal audience he calls "distinguished gentleman"-more
out of sarcasm than respect.
Yet this Underground Man's soliloquy is far from an elegant and polished masterpiece-much of it is confusing
and almost incoherent. The UM himself admits that some of this confusion is a result of his life's
confusion-a life that swarms with "contradictory elements" that torment him constantly.
He is also a man who cannot act
as others do. Though he hates this spiteful part of him, this inability to "become anything,"
he does, however, take some kind of pride (though also shame) in the fact that he is superior in intelligence
to those around him. He takes great pains to explain that because he is so intelligent, he is
unable to act. He will elaborate on this point in future chapters.
Part 1 Chapter 2: In this chapter
we learn that the UM's illness is more than physical: he asserts that he has a psychological disease-he
has too much consciousness. He admits that day after day he would rush home to hide in his "corner,"
only to anguish and "gnaw" at himself, reconsidering the actions he had taken that day. At the
same time, however, he finds a kind of pleasure in the humiliation and even despair caused by this "overly