Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323
The main character in The Double is the titular councillor Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Sr. Golyadkin has a servant called Peruska, a boss where he works at the government office called Andrei Filipovich and a doctor called Krestyan Ivanovich Rutenspitz.
At the beginning of the story Golyadkin seems a strange, but relatively confident and well off man. He has a servant, owns his own flat and travels by carriage. When he counts his money Golyadkin states
“Seven hundred and fifty roubles in notes,” he concluded at last, in a half-whisper. “Seven hundred and fifty roubles, a noteworthy sum! It’s an agreeable sum,” he went on, in a voice weak and trembling with gratification, as he pinched the roll with his fingers and smiled significantly; “it’s a very agreeable sum! A sum agreeable to any one! I should like to see the man to whom that would be a trivial sum!
The first sign that he maybe mentally unstable is when he visits his doctor Krestyan Ivanovich Rutenspitz and proclaims that he has "malignant enemies who have sworn to ruin me."
Following his doctor's advice to be more sociable, Golyadkin goes to his boss's daughter's party where he meets the two other most important characters in the story, Klara Olsufyevna and Golyadkin Jr. Klara Olsufyevna is Golyadkin's love interest and it is his obsession with her that, at the end of the story, leads to his capture. Golyadkin Jr. is Golyadkin's double.
Golyadkin gets on with his double until he starts "noticing in his enemy’s face something positively Bacchanalian." More confident and assertive than Golyadkin, his double takes over Golyadkin's position in the office and takes over his life. The more Golyadkin complains the worse it gets for him. He loses his job and eventually loses his mind.
Our hero shrieked and clutched his head in his hands. Alas! For a long while he had been haunted by a presentiment of this.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 541
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 believes are plotting against him. After he conceives of a wild scheme to aid Klara Olsufievna in escaping from her family, he is taken into custody and whisked off to a mental asylum.
Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Jr.
Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Jr., the cunning and treacherous double of Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Sr. A gregarious figure who knows how to combine poses of concerned sincerity with genial good humor, he displays an unerring ability to gain the favor of Yakov Petrovich’s superiors while casting Yakov Petrovich himself into situations of public humiliation. His appearance in the novel reflects both Yakov Petrovich’s insecurity over his position in society and his unresolvable internal conflicts over what kind of image he should present to the outside world.
Klara Olsufievna Berendeyeva
Klara Olsufievna Berendeyeva (KLAH-rah ohl-SEW-fyehv-nah beh-rehn-DEH-yeh-vah), the daughter of a man who had once been Yakov Petrovich’s benefactor. Although she is the object of Yakov Petrovich’s affections, her own romantic interests are directed toward another official, Vladimir Semyonovich.
Andrei Filipovich (fee-LEE-poh-vihch), the head of the government office in which Yakov Petrovich works and the uncle of Vladimir Semyonovich.
Krestyan Ivanovich Rutenspitz
Krestyan Ivanovich Rutenspitz (chrehst-YAN ee-VAH-noh-vihch rew-tehn-spihtz), Yakov Petrovich’s doctor. It is Yakov Petrovich’s visit to this doctor at the beginning of the story that reveals Yakov Petrovich’s mental instability, and it is this doctor who conducts the deranged man to the mental asylum at the end.
Karolina Ivanovna (kah-roh-LEE-nah ee-VAH-nov-nah), a German woman in whose apartment Yakov Petrovich once lived and whom he once courted, perhaps with dishonorable motives. Yakov Petrovich denies that he promised to marry her to avoid paying the rent that he owed her.
Petrushka (peh-TREW-shkah), Yakov Petrovich’s servant. He is a taciturn man whose drunkenness only compounds Yakov Petrovich’s confusion over what intrigues may be transpiring around him.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 561
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 consistently mocking tone of the narrator further alienates the reader.) In his rapid alternation between clumsy attempts at self-assertion and a bewildered state of paralysis, Golyadkin, Sr., is a victim of his own inability to be whole.
His double is a projection of the deeper, suppressed forces of his own psyche. These forces are both good and bad. Golyadkin, Jr., is immediately successful, in both his personal and professional relationships. His relations with his colleagues are easy and cordial. He acts with great charm (which Golyadkin, Sr., finds revolting and insincere) in company. The double’s efficiency is noted by his superiors, and he is fully accepted in the home of Klara. All these things infuriate Golyadkin, Sr.
Yet in dealing with Golyadkin, Sr., the double adopts something of what is probably his counterpart’s own disingenuousness. When pressed to explain himself, the double veers between an excessive formality, which renders Golyadkin, Sr., speechless with frustration, or an inappropriate informality which offends his interrogator’s sense of decorum. This Doppelganger also insults Golyadkin, Sr., in public and taunts him with his secret sense of guilt, calling him a Faublas (the name of an immoral lover in an eighteenth century Russian novel). These are things of which Golyadkin, Sr., does not want to be reminded. By now, the protagonist has lost rational control of himself, and his subconscious impulses confront him as if they were coming from the external environment, rather than from himself. He therefore regards his double not only as his deadly enemy but also as an impostor, not related to him at all. Only occasionally is his condemnation mixed with some measure of self-awareness, as when he exclaims, angered by his own inability to keep control of himself, “I’m my own enemy, I’m my own murderer!” The words carry a deeper meaning than he realizes.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 54
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.