Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Sr.

Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Sr. (YAH-kov peh-TROH-vihch gol-YAD-kihn), the assistant to the chief clerk in a government office in St. Petersburg. From the outset, Yakov Petrovich reveals himself to be an insecure and mentally unstable individual who longs to be a success in his personal and professional life but who fails in both. After he makes a fool of himself as an uninvited guest at the birthday party of the woman he desires, Klara Olsufievna, he rushes into the street in a state of distress. There he repeatedly encounters a mysterious individual who, he realizes to his dismay, is his identical physical double. After quelling his anxiety about the appearance of this double, Yakov Petrovich allows the man to spend the night in his apartment. The next day, however, he begins to perceive that the double, labeled by the narrator as Golyadkin, Jr., has begun to worm his way into Yakov Petrovich’s office and threatens to take over Yakov Petrovich’s place there. Increasingly horrified at the skill of Golyadkin, Jr., in currying favor with Yakov Petrovich’s superiors and at the man’s continued disdain for Yakov Petrovich’s own attempts to make friends with him, Yakov Petrovich launches into a frantic, confused campaign of spying and letter writing to try to protect his own position and to uncover the motives of those he...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The main interest of the story lies in the character of the protagonist; the other characters are sketched only thinly. The only exception is the sullen and sarcastic servant, Petrushka, who knows his master well enough to ignore him most of the time. Fyodor Dostoevski clearly establishes his hero’s character in the first few chapters, before the mental disintegration becomes fully manifest. Golyadkin, Sr., is first seen on a shopping spree, riding in a splendid rented carriage and wearing a new suit of clothes. He is obviously a man who has social ambitions, but he is too self-conscious to carry off the act successfully and suffers from acute embarrassment whenever he encounters any acquaintances. In spite of the great show he makes by flourishing his savings—he even goes so far as to change large notes for small, so that he appears to have more money—he buys almost nothing. He is an ineffective man, unable to assert himself in the way that he wishes. He puts on a show of bravado toward people he knows he can bully, such as his servant, but his timidity and awkwardness ensure that he is fatally divided against himself—he cannot become the person he wishes to be. The pettiness of his ambitions, his servile attitude toward his social and professional superiors, his suppressed feelings of guilt, and his self-righteous belief that he is an honorable man being destroyed by unscrupulous enemies do not encourage the reader to feel any sympathy toward him. (The...

(The entire section is 561 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Chizhevesky, Dmitri. “The Theme of the Double in Dostoevsky,” in Dostoevsky: A Collection of Critical Essays, 1962. Edited by Rene Wellek.

Dostoevski, Fyodor. The Unpublished Dostoevsky, 1973-1976 (three volumes). Edited by Carl R. Proffer.

Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821-1849, 1976.

Hingley, Ronald. Dostoevsky: His Life and Work, 1978.

Terras, Victor. The Young Dostoevsky, 1846-1849, 1969.