Questions and Answers Part I: Underground (Chapters 1−5)
1. The narrator says he is sick, but why doesn’t he go to a doctor?
2. How does the narrator describe himself and his actions as a civil servant?
3. What does the narrator say his goal or purpose is for writing this story?
4. How does the narrator explain the differences between the man of action and the man of excessive consciousness in terms of following through on the act of revenge?
5. The narrator compares the man of action and the man of excessive consciousness in relation to primary and secondary causes. Provide examples of a primary cause and a secondary cause as the narrator defines them. Then explain how the two different types of man identify the primary and secondary causes (or reasons) for their actions.
1. The narrator states that although he respects the medical community, he has not been to see a doctor. He first says this is because he is superstitious, especially when it comes to the medical world. However, he then confesses that he has not gone to a doctor because he is spiteful—not against doctors but against himself.
2. The narrator explains that he used to be a mean and rude official. He admits that he took pleasure in being hostile toward others. He was most pleased when he made someone feel distressed. However, he explains that even at his most vile moments, he was not really an embittered man. He actually had a soft heart. He merely yelled at other people because he liked to fool around with them.
3. The narrator states that his goal, the reason he is writing this story, is to explain where his pleasure comes from when he is experiencing pain. He also wants to know if other people experience the same type of pleasure from pain.
4. The normal man (man of action) looks at revenge as “no more than a matter of simple justice,” and therefore he has no inner dialogue or...
(The entire section is 529 words.)
Questions and Answers Part I: Underground (Chapters 6−11)
1. How does the narrator respond to the philosophy that states if man were enlightened, he would no longer commit ruthless acts and would become good and noble and that all enlightened men would understand that it was in their best interests to be good?
2. According to the narrator, how do the scientific theories about man’s behavior define “advantage”?
3. According to scientific theories, civilizing people will make them want to work only toward the good. How does the narrator dispute this? What does he say about how man continues to fight wars?
4. What does the narrator say would happen if people were relegated to acting only according to a book of prescribed rules, which are supposed to be based on the laws of nature, at least as the scientific theories define them?
5. The narrator argues against living in a world dominated by reason. How does he say he prefers to live?
1. The narrator mocks this philosophy. He asks, “Who has ever, in all these millennia, seen men acting solely for the sake of advantage?” Then he asks what is to be done with all the millions of people who act otherwise, against their own interest, people who do this knowingly, with full awareness and with free will? They do this, the narrator states, as if they merely wanted to reject the road they know they should be following. They are stubborn. They seek a difficult, and often absurd, road. The reason men seek something that may not be in their best interest is that something has pleased them more than any advantage might.
2. According to the scientific formulas, the narrator says, advantage lies somewhere in the realm of prosperity, wealth, freedom, peace of mind, and so forth.
3. The narrator contends that the process of civilizing does not rid man of his thirst for blood. It “merely develops man’s capacity for a greater...
(The entire section is 585 words.)
Questions and Answers Part II: On the Occasion of Wet Snow (Chapters 1−5)
1. The narrator is humiliated by the unnamed officer who lifts him up by the shoulders. How does the narrator plan, and then pull off, his revenge?
2. The narrator often retreats into a fantasy world he has created. Describe his fantasy world. In the end, how do these fantasies make him feel?
3. How does the narrator describe his visits to Anton’s house? How does the narrator feel after visiting Anton?
4. Who are the three men who are planning Zverkov’s farewell dinner? How does the narrator know them? What is their attitude toward the narrator when he shows up at the apartment where they are meeting?
5. The narrator, on his way to finding the men after the dinner, has second thoughts about looking for them. What thoughts are running through his head? And what is the fantasy he has that involves Zverkov?
1. The narrator plans to confront the officer on a public street. He will stand in the officer’s way and not give in to him. To prepare for this, the narrator purchases some new clothes. He must be well dressed because he would create a scandal for not giving in to the officer, who would look better dressed than the narrator and thus of a higher social status. It takes several attempts for the narrator to confront the officer. The first few times he gives in. It makes him sick to realize that he has given in to his fears. He decides to abandon his plans, but goes back one more time, just to see the officer. When the narrator sees the officer coming, for some unexplained reason he feels he can accomplish his task. He shuts his eyes and refuses to move, and the men bump into one another. The officer moves away, however, as if nothing had happened. But the narrator goes home, finally feeling avenged. He did not move out of the way. His dignity has been spared.
2. In his fantasies, the narrator sees himself as a hero. But...
(The entire section is 730 words.)
Questions and Answers Part II: On the Occasion of Wet Snow (Chapters 6−10)
1. When the narrator says that he does not believe that Liza chose the house of prostitution of her own free will, what does Liza answer? After the narrator hears her answer, what does he say?
2. The narrator attempts to contrast life as Liza is currently living and the life she has forsaken because she has turned to prostitution. What does he tell her he would do if she were not a prostitute? What does he say he can do with her because she is a prostitute? And what does he say she has given up because she is a prostitute?
3. Before the narrator leaves the house of prostitution, Liza asks him to wait. She wants to give him something. What is it that she gives him? And what comment does the narrator make about why Liza gave it to him?
4. There is an exchange between Apollon and the narrator over Apollon’s wages. What does the narrator do? How does Apollon react?
5. Toward the end of the story, the narrator has a sort of revelation in reference to Liza. He sees something in her that he has never seen before in anyone else. What is it?
1. Liza insinuates that her father sold her to the house of prostitution. The narrator tells her that that only happens when there is no God and no love in the family. This is what poverty can do to families, he concludes.
2. The narrator tells Liza that if she were living somewhere else, some place respectable, he might fall in love with her. But as she lives now, all he has to do is call to her, and she has to do whatever he asks of her. It is not just her body that is not free. She has sold her soul. She has given up on love.
3. Liza shows the narrator a letter. It is from a college boy who declares his love for her. The narrator leaves, thinking that Liza showed him that letter to prove her worth.
4. In order to annoy Apollon, the narrator decides to withhold his...
(The entire section is 533 words.)