The Double – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Imagine you try to enter a party, but are scoffed by your host. Walking home in the snow, confused, in the dark, almost alone on a bridge, you see a man identical to yourself.

The Double is one of Dostoyevsky’s most famous novellas. However, I wanted to promote The Double considering Dostoyevsky’s novellas are not that well known in general.  The Double is in many ways incredible Russian. So many of Russians most famous literatures are dark, philosophical debates on the essence of humanity. Dostoyevsky has a humane, but hopeless, view of his protagonist. This is not very Russian, since Russian culture celebrates the strong man.

He could not consent to allow himself to be insulted, still less to allow himself to be treated as a rag, and, above all, to allow a thoroughly vicious man to treat him so. No quarrelling, however, no quarrelling! Possibly if some one wanted, if some one, for instance, actually insisted on turning Mr. Golyadkin into a rag, he might have done so, might have done so without opposition or punishment (Mr. Golyadkin was himself conscious of this at times), and he would have been a rag and not Golyadkin – yes, a nasty, filthy rag; but that rag would not have been a simple rag, it would have been a rag possessed of dignity, it would have been a rag possessed of feelings and sentiments, even though dignity was defenceless and feelings could not assert themselves, and lay hidden deep down in the filthy folds of the rag, still the feelings there

The humane, but hopeless view on weak men is a very typical aspect of a sub-section of Russian literature. Maybe, as a reaction to the Russian celebration of the strong man. I talked about this in my review of The Overcoat, if you are interested. Gogol (the author of The Overcoat) greatly influenced Dostoyevsky. While there are many similarities, Dostoyevsky is much more introverted than is Gogol. Dostoyevsky places us inside the head of the main protagonist and have to deal with the insanity just like him. We are sitting there wondering who is the insane person, the protagonist, the people around him or if it is us?

A man’s perishing here, a man’s vanishing from his own sight here, and can’t control himself–what sort of wedding can there be!

As with any good horror story, the scares come from not knowing what is and is not real. Is someone trying to replace him? Is there a big conspiracy? Are there ghosts? Is he just sick? Alternatively, is it all symbolism?


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