Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 259

The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky is about a man, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, Sr., who is not content with his life and feels he doesn't receive the respect he deserves. In fact, the protagonist believes he doesn't get what he deserves regarding almost all aspects of his life.

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The woman that he loves, Klara, becomes more of an unattainable mirage than a realistic chance at romance. This all stems directly or indirectly, Golyadkin, Sr. believes, from enemies conspiring to ruin his reputation. When the titular "double" enters the story, he does so like a phantom, appearing on a cold foggy night.

The double, Golyadkin, Jr., is a essentially an alter-ego of the original Golyadkin and possesses the qualities that Golyadkin, Sr. wishes he had. In this sense, the double could be Golyadkin's projection of his ideal self-image physically manifested. When the double becomes a rival who goes out of his way to destroy Golyadkin's reputation with everyone around him, including Klara, this is simply a continuation of Golyadkin's paranoia seen earlier in the narrative.

Just as he projects his ideal self onto the double, Golyadkin, Sr. also projects his insecurities and paranoid thoughts. The main theme of the story is the duality of the self. After all, the human brain is divided in hemispheres. The universal concept of morality is also dual in nature: good and evil.

Dostoevsky points out that even singular beings can possess multiple selves. The overall theme of the story is the concept of identity and how we allow the society around us shape that identity.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 319

Dostoevski prepares for the appearance of the double with careful foreshadowing. In the first chapter, after passing his office superior, while traveling in the hired carriage, Golyadkin, Sr., is overwhelmed by confusion. He wonders whether he should pretend not to be himself, “but somebody else strikingly like me....Just...not me, not me and that’s all.” After the humiliating experience at Klara’s birthday party, the narrator comments that Golyadkin, Sr., “was killed entirely, in the full sense of the word.” He wants not only “to run away from himself, but to be obliterated, to cease to be, to turn into dust as well.”

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