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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315

The Double by Dostoevsky examines the psychological decline of the government clerk Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin. He finds out not only that he has a double but that his double is taking over his life. The double, who becomes known in the story as Golyadkin, Jr., is everything Golyadkin, Sr. is not: confident, charming, and sociable.

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From the beginning of the story, Golyadkin, Sr. is presented as an unstable person.

Then, suddenly recalling how taken aback he had been, our hero flushed as hot as fire, frowned, and cast a terrible defiant glance at the front corner of the carriage, a glance calculated to reduce all his foes to ashes.

He visits his doctor to discuss his problems. Worried, the doctor prescribes him

a change of habits... Well, amusements, and visits to friends and acquaintances; also, no hostility to the bottle; likewise, cheerful company.

With the doctor's advice in mind, Golyadkin, Sr. decides to go, uninvited, to the birthday party of his boss's daughter. He hopes to make a good impression and stop what he thinks is negative gossip about him, but he instead gets thrown out after trying to dance with the boss's beautiful daughter, Klara Olsufyevna.

From there, things go from bad to worse. On his way home, he meets his double. Initially, they get on well, but their relationship quickly declines. Golyadkin, Sr. starts to worry that his double is taking over his life. Golyadkin, Jr. has even started working in his office.

When Golyadkin, Sr. tries to turn popular opinion against his double, superiors sack him instead. The next day Golyadkin, Sr. receives a letter from Klara Olsufyevna that says she wants to meet with him.

I shall throw myself into the protection of your arms at two o’clock in the night.

When he arrives, however, he is taken into the care of his doctor and transported to the insane asylum.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 873

The Double centers on the mental disintegration of Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Sr., the assistant to the chief clerk in a government office in St. Petersburg. The first four chapters lead up to his breakdown. In chapter 2, a visit to his German doctor, Krestyan Ivanovich Rutenspitz, reveals the protagonist’s highly agitated state of mind. He has enemies, he says, who are trying to destroy him and he complains that a younger colleague of his, the nephew of his superior, Andrey Filippovich, has been awarded the promotion that he, Golyadkin, Sr., had been anticipating. His chances of a successful romance with the desirable Klara Olsufyevna have also been harmed. Soon the reader discovers that some ugly rumors have been spread about Golyadkin, Sr., to the effect that he has been involved with a disreputable German woman, Karolina Ivanovna, and that he has behaved dishonorably toward her.

Later that day, he is refused admission to Klara’s birthday party. He slips in unnoticed but clumsily draws attention to himself, tries to dance with Klara, and is escorted out. This humiliation proves to be the crucial moment in the narrative.

Fleeing down the miserable, wet November streets, attempting to escape from what he thinks is persecution, he senses someone near him. A stranger passes by, yet somehow he seems familiar, and he is dressed exactly like Golyadkin, Sr. The stranger passes by again a few minutes later. Golyadkin, Sr., recognizes him; he knows him only too well. He follows the stranger to the entrance of his own apartment and finally into his own bedroom. Trembling with horror, his hair standing on end, the protagonist realizes that he has met his double, a man exactly like him in all respects.

The next day, the double turns up at the office and secures a job as a clerk. No one but Golyadkin, Sr., takes much notice, or remarks on the strange resemblance, but...

(The entire section contains 1188 words.)

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