Notes From Underground

by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Start Free Trial

How are part 1 and part 2 of Notes from Underground connected? How does part 2 shed light on and complicate part 1?

Part 1 and part 2 of Notes from Underground are connected because, if part 1 presents an argument, part 2 might be seen as presenting its illustration. Part 2 sheds light on and complicates part 1 by giving concrete examples of the narrator's beliefs about free will, "vile acts," and self-loathing.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One way of thinking about Notes from Underground is to understand it as an argument. In that sense, the first section amounts to a kind of assertion by the narrator about his psychological condition and human nature in general. The second part provides concrete examples, drawn from the narrator's experience,...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

One way of thinking about Notes from Underground is to understand it as an argument. In that sense, the first section amounts to a kind of assertion by the narrator about his psychological condition and human nature in general. The second part provides concrete examples, drawn from the narrator's experience, of why these assertions are true. When the narrator talks, in the first part, about "free will" and the pleasure one derives from "vile acts," in the second part we see, in his treatment of Liza, the sort of conduct that gives rise to that statement.

I think it would be an oversimplification, however, to leave it at that. There is a sense in which the narrator's self-loathing, and his grim delight in his self-loathing, can be seen as self-pity or moral cowardice. Liza is an important character because she alone does not repudiate the narrator or see him as socially inferior. In fact, she takes what the narrator says seriously, and (unlike the narrator himself) actually tries to act on his words, declaring that she will stop being a prostitute.

The narrator's reaction to this unexpected turn toward morality—that is, rape—problematizes what we know about him from the first part. While one reading can construe his action as one of "free will" and the embrace of all that is most vile within his heart, another reading can see his assault as a reflection of his own moral weakness and an invitation to the reader to join his friends in repudiating him. Either way, the second part causes the reader to deeply engage with and question the polemics of the first part.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team