A monologue from the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Notes From the Underground. Trans. Constance Garnett. New York: Macmillian Company, 1918.
Why have you come to me, tell me that, please? Why have you come? Answer, answer! I’ll tell you, my good girl, why you have come. You’ve come because I talked sentimental stuff to you then.
So now you are soft as butter and longing for fine sentiments again. So you may as well know that I was laughing at you then. And I am laughing at you now. Why are you shuddering?
Yes, I was laughing at you! I had been insulted just before, at dinner, by the fellows who came that evening before me. I came to you, meaning to thrash one of them, an officer;
but I didn’t succeed, I didn’t find him; I had to avenge the insult on someone to get back my own again; you turned up, I vented my spleen on you and laughed at you.
I had been humiliated, so I wanted to humiliate; I had been treated like a rag, so I wanted to show my power …. That’s what it was, and you imagined I had come there on purpose to save you.
Yes? You imagined that? Save you! Save you from what? But perhaps I am worse than you myself. Why didn’t you throw it in my teeth when I was giving you that sermon?
Power, power was what I wanted then, sport was what I wanted, I wanted to wring out your tears, your humiliation, your hysteria–that was what I wanted then!
Of course, I couldn’t keep it up then, because I am a wretched creature, I was frightened, and, the devil knows why, gave you my address in my folly. Afterwards, before I got home,
I was cursing and swearing at you because of that address, I hated you already because of the lies I had told you. Because I only like playing with words, only dreaming, but, do you know, what I really want is that you should all go to hell.
That is what I want. I want peace; yes, I’d sell the whole world for a farthing, straight off, so long as I was left in peace. Is the world to go to pot, or am I to go without my tea?
I say that the world may go to pot for me so long as I always get my tea. Did you know that, or not? I am a blackguard, a scoundrel, an egoist, a sluggard. Here I have been shuddering for the last three days at the thought of your coming.
And do you know what has worried me particularly for these three days? That I posed as such a hero to you, and now you would see me in a wretched torn dressing-gown, beggarly, loathsome.
I told you just now that I was not ashamed of my poverty; so you may as well know that I am ashamed of it; I am more ashamed of it than of anything, more afraid of it than of being found out if I were a thief,
because I am as vain as though I had been skinned and the very air blowing on me hurt. I shall never forgive you for having found me in this wretched dressing-gown!
And I shall never forgive you for the tears I could not help shedding before you just now, like some silly woman put to shame! And for what I am confessing to you now, I shall never forgive you either!
Yes–you must answer for it all because you turned up like this, because I am a blackguard, because I am the nastiest, stupidest, absurdest and most envious of all the worms on earth,
who are not a bit better than I am, but, the devil knows why, are never put to confusion; while I shall always be insulted by every louse, that is my doom! And what is it to me that you don’t understand a word of this!
And what do I care, what do I care about you, and whether you go to ruin there or not? Do you understand? How I shall hate you now after saying this, for having been here and listening.
Why, it’s not once in a lifetime a man speaks out like this, and then it is in hysterics![Pause.] What more do you want? Why do you still stand confronting me, after all this?
Why are you worrying me? Why don’t you go?