The narrator of the novel. He is a solitary being, unable to make lasting acquaintances with others. Though he is poor, he has an extremely high opinion of himself, despising others for not recognizing his moral superiority to them. Though he rails against reason, he rationalizes everything. Through his narrative in Part I, he shows the despair of a man who accepts the deterministic ideas of the radicals of the 1860s but finds that emotions and hidden urges are stronger than reason. In Part II, the narrator recalls his youth and shows that his failure to relate to others is a result of his overly extensive education and culture. The Underground Man lives mostly in books and dreams, and is incapable of handling reality. He attempts to dominate everyone he meets, imagining duels with them when he fails and despising them whenever he succeeds.
Once, when the Underground Man walked into a tavern, a six-foot tall officer moved him aside and passed by without noticing him. This officer had a tendency to walk straight towards people, expecting them to move aside and not noticing them. The Underground Man, humiliated by this treatment, spent two years following the officer and gathering information about him, finally deciding to avenge himself by refusing to yield when the officer walked straight at him.
A prostitute at a brothel, forced to work there possibly because her parents sold her into the profession. In her innocence she is moved by the Underground Man's false speech aimed at redeeming her and comes to him seeking help. Though he offends her, she realizes that he is unhappy and puts herself aside to comfort him. Liza is the novel's positive ideal, the carrier of Dostoevsky's message, illustrating the power of selfless love that neither egoists like the Underground Man nor the liberal radical supporters of the "crystal palace" can understand.
The Underground Man's elderly servant. He is extremely dignified at all times and has an enormously high sense of self-esteem. He despises the Underground Man and looks down on everyone. He works for the Underground Man only for the money, refusing to actually do any work. Whenever he does anything, he acts as if he is doing the Underground Man a favor. The two are locked in a constant quarrel whereby the Underground Man, in attempting to dominate Apollon, fails miserably and is always forced to surrender in the end.
Anton Antonych Setochkin
The Underground Man's office chief who, although he never lends anyone money, always lends money to the Underground Man when asked. He is the Underground Man's only lasting acquaintance. Seeing visitors only on Tuesdays, Setochkin often has tea with distinguished civil servants at his apartment.
An old classmate of the narrator. In school he was attractive, lively, and rich, and everyone looked up to him. He brags and talks about his future conquests to everyone's amusement.
An old classmate of the narrator. The Underground Man believes Simonov to have some independence of character. In school they even seemed to be friendly at some point. Simonov is decisive, and the others put him in charge of planning Zverkov's farewell dinner. The Underground Man believes that Simonov can see right through him and finds him repulsive because he understands him so well.
Another old classmate of the narrator. He is stupid and made fun of everybody. The Underground Man sees him as his worst enemy from the lower grades in school, though he is certain that Ferfichkin is a coward.
Yet another old classmate of the narrator. A military man who is cold and honest. He worships success and was respected by his classmates because he was a distant relative of Zverkov.
A prostitute at the same brothel as Liza. She is very popular and sleeps with Zverkov. However, she refuses the Underground Man and makes fun of his face.
Notes from Underground Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Notes from Underground is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The narrator of the novel. He is a solitary being, unable to make lasting acquaintances with others. Though he is poor, he has an extremely high opinion of himself, despising others for not recognizing his moral superiority to...