The Double (Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel)
The Double (Russian: Двойник, Dvoynik) is a novella written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published on January 30, 1846 in the Fatherland Notes. The Double centers on a government clerk who goes mad, obsessed by the idea that a fellow clerk has usurped his identity. It deals with the internal psychological struggle of its main character, Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, who repeatedly encounters someone who is his exact double in appearance but confident, aggressive, and extroverted, characteristics that are the polar opposites to those of the toadying "pushover" protagonist. The motif of the novella is a doppelgänger (Russian "dvoynik"), known throughout the world in various guises such as the fetch.
The Double is the most Gogolesque of Dostoyevsky's works; its subtitle "A Petersburg Poem" echoes that of Gogol's Dead Souls. Vladimir Nabokov called it a parody of "The Overcoat". The story is told in great detail with a style intensely saturated by phonetic and rhythmical expressiveness. D.S. Mirsky characterized the story as a "painful, almost intolerable reading".
The cruelty of the story is marked by Nikolay Mikhaylovsky (?) and his madness. Dostoyevsky depicts the sufferings of Mr. Golyadkin's humiliated human dignity. Closely related to The Double is "the still stranger and madder" (as D.S. Mirsky termed it) Mr. Prokharchin (1846), also by Dostoyevsky. The story, in places deliberately obscure and unintelligible, is about the death of a miser who accumulated a fortune while living in the abject filth of a wretched slum.
In The Double, the narrative tone depicts a man whose life is on the verge of destruction due to the sudden appearance of a literal facsimile of his self. This double attempts to destroy the protagonist's good name and claim the position of both his public life in the Russian bureaucracy and within the social circle inhabited by "Golyadkin" Senior (the author's "original Golyadkin, our hero").
The novella may, however, be viewed simply as the documentation of a schizophrenic break from reality with the realistic description of symptomatic mental degenerations, including broken speech patterns and free association. The most obvious example is the hallucination where the hero of the story sees himself everywhere he goes, especially in socially awkward situations. The man's quick downfall is characteristic of the disease.
- Mochulsky, Konstantin (1973) [First published 1967]. Dostoevsky: His Life and Work. Trans. Minihan, Michael A. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-691-01299-7.
- D.S. Mirsky. A History of Russian Literature. Northwestern University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8101-1679-0. Page 184.
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