Themes

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated 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.

The woman that...

(The entire section contains 578 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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.

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

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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.”

The most notable aspect of Dostoevski’s narrative technique is his ability to blend the realistic with the fantastic. In spite of the effectiveness of the foreshadowing, the status of the double is never made completely explicit. His first emergence, on a wet foggy night, could be seen as a hallucination, existing only in the protagonist’s disordered mind. Dostoevski keeps this possibility in the foreground: After the double has spent the night at the house of Golyadkin, Sr., he appears to vanish without a trace in the morning, and the servant, Petrushka, acts as if nothing untoward has happened. Other characters are completely indifferent about the matter, apart from a casual remark or two about coincidence, and on two occasions Golyadkin, Sr., sees the double in a doorway, which he took to be a looking glass. Nevertheless, the fantastic elements are balanced by a carefully developed realism. The double has a personal history (which he explains to Golyadkin, Sr., on their first acquaintance), and an objective life which is independent of his counterpart’s own mind. Others recognize and acknowledge his existence. The balance is maintained up to the last episode: The German doctor’s transformation into a demon is purely fantastic, but his announcement of his patient’s fate is grimly realistic.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Double Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Summary

Next

Characters