Notes From Underground

by Fyodor Dostoevsky
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In Notes from Underground, what in the underground man's narrative about himself and his past helps to explain his actions and behavior towards Liza?

In Notes from Underground, the way in which the underground man thinks about himself helps to explain his cruel treatment of Liza. "I am a sick man," he says. "I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man." With such terrible traits, it shouldn't be surprising that he's unable to sustain loving, caring relationships.

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As your question implies, to understand our anonymous narrator's mistreatment of Liza, we should probably try and understand him.

How does our anonymous narrator introduce himself? He tells us, "I am a sick man .... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is...

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As your question implies, to understand our anonymous narrator's mistreatment of Liza, we should probably try and understand him.

How does our anonymous narrator introduce himself? He tells us, "I am a sick man .... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased."

Is this the kind of man who seems capable of maintaining a loving and caring relationship? We'd lean towards no. Throughout the novel (or "notes"), we notice how bizarre, strange, and "sick" our narrator is.

Little things tend to bother him a great deal. Think about the scene with the soldier and his preoccupation with whether or not the soldier should have gotten out of his way. More so, there's his love/hate infatuation with the people he knew from school.

It's almost as if something has infected our narrator. It's like he has some disease that precludes him for fostering and developing any kind of meaningful relationship. Our narrator's past behavior should let us know that things with sexworker Liza probably won't work out.

In their brief relationship, our narrator starts with compassion. He tells her, "There still is time. You are still young, good-looking; you might love, be married, be happy." He seems to give Liza something like a pep talk. He even gives her his address.

Yet, sticking to his intemperate nature, the next day, he criticizes himself for "having such an attack of womanish hysteria."

When Liza visits him at his address, our narrator has a predictable change of heart. He dismisses the things he told her last night as "sentimental stuff." He tells her: "I was laughing at you then. And I am laughing at you now."

The verbal abuse continues until Liza leaves.

Again, knowing all that we do about our anonymous narrator, we shouldn't be surprised about the cruel conclusion of his and Liza's relationship. "I am a blackguard," our narrator tells her, "I am the nastiest, stupidest, absurdest, and most envious of all the worms on earth."

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