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Thread: Goldyadkin - incipient psychosis?

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    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Goldyadkin - incipient psychosis?

    The Double is not among my my favourite Dostoevsky's. Is the story simply the account of our hero's stumbling journey into psychosis and the reaction of less than sympathetic St. Petersberg onlookers?

    What have I missed?
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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    Registered User WyattGwyon's Avatar
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    Gladys,

    I know this is months after your posting, but I just joined this forum recently and was sorry to have seen your note go unanswered. It can't be just a fall into psychosis, because everyone else in the office and elsewhere is aware of the existence of "Golyadkin Junior," though they seem not to note his uncanny resemblance to the original. I always thought the story was an ambitious experiment designed to put the reader in the same position as Golyadkin: faced with contradictory views of reality that are unresolvable. The impossible is given concrete existence and confirmed by a consensus of other characters. It is not just a matter of an unreliable narrator—the narrator is actually quite reliable, it's just that what he reports cannot be. I found the story maddening and fascinating.

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    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WyattGwyon View Post
    It can't be just a fall into psychosis, because everyone else in the office and elsewhere is aware of the existence of "Golyadkin Junior," though they seem not to note his uncanny resemblance to the original.
    Can't be?

    Golyadkin's behaviour borders on the psychotic because he sees a doppelgänger in his fellow clerk whereas others, more sane, simply see a young colleague with incidental physical and behavioural similarities. Golyadkin is obsessed by similarities that others scarcely deign to notice.

    Isn't such mental distortion of reality a hallmark of burgeoning psychosis?

    Quote Originally Posted by WyattGwyon View Post
    I always thought the story was an ambitious experiment designed to put the reader in the same position as Golyadkin: faced with contradictory views of reality that are unresolvable. The impossible is given concrete existence and confirmed by a consensus of other characters. It is not just a matter of an unreliable narrator—the narrator is actually quite reliable, it's just that what he reports cannot be.
    The reader sees growing madness through the eyes of Golyadkin, who alone perceives a double. The narrator is reliable but declines to present the situation through other eyes.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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    Registered User WyattGwyon's Avatar
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    Sorry to get back so late on this Gladys (but at least it's not months). Yes, your explanation of what is going on is the most logical. This is what happens in Nabokov's Despair, in which the protagonist thinks he has an exact double but to others the similarity is only vague. And of course Golyadkin is incipiently psychotic. What I am saying is that Dostoyevsky abets his confusion in ways that go beyond the use of an unreliable narrator. The double actually shares our hero's name, and I don't believe Golyadkin is a common one. Others confirm a "family resemblance," but they pay so little attention to either Golyadkin, that one might think they simply failed to notice the extent of the similarity. In short, Dostoyevsky goes out of his way to confirm the factual basis of Golyadkin's delusions. To find other instances of this I am going to have to reread it—or else find an essay I wrote on it long ago. (I just moved and everything is in boxes.) I'll post again in a month or so?

    Anyway, I think I liked The Double more than you did!

  5. #5
    Incipient psychosis seems like a reasonable possibility to me. It is not one of Dostoevsky's more prolific works, mainly because many of its earliest critics heralded it as a rather disingenious caricature of Gogol's "Greatcoat" (which it more or less was). I found "The Double" an interesting read for the same reason that most of its detractors oppose it; primarily due to the fact that the first five or six chapters seem to be missing. We never really learn *why* the protagonist is mad, what clinical explanation, if any, may be attributed to his sickness. I chose to see the illness as a form of virulent malignant narcissism which altercasted what Golyadkin perceived to be his own positive traits unto someone else, thus providing him with a form of introspection that he would have been unable to discern in any conventional way. I feel that he experienced what is by and large a very contemporary dilemma, one confronted by people who know and despise the office setting. He could vaguely understand that there was something wrong with the world and his place in it, but needed to somehow externalize that meaning as a doppelganger in order to come to terms with the injustice that he believed himself to be confronting. He hated his own life, more or less, but couldn't bear to consciously acknowledge that, so he had to project it onto something reprehensible. Golyadkin was profoundly incapable of relating to the world around him, because I suspect that he saw all semblances of faith as a charade. Example; I don't believe that he *really* loved the noblewoman, but rather enacted a masquerade which would permit him to convince himself that he loved her, thereby providing himself with some level of emotional affirmation from day to day.
    True, it was difficult reading in some respects, though it was certainly a very insightful read, perhaps not as good as "Poor Folk" though definitely an enticing insinuation as to the direction that Dostoevsky's work might have taken had he not become involved with the Petrashevsky Circle.

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    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mouseofcards89 View Post
    I found "The Double" an interesting read for the same reason that most of its detractors oppose it; primarily due to the fact that the first five or six chapters seem to be missing.
    Missing?! That would explain my dissatisfaction with the book.

    By contrast I read and adored his next, but unfinished, novel Netochka Nezvanova of 1849.

    Quote Originally Posted by mouseofcards89 View Post
    I feel that he experienced what is by and large a very contemporary dilemma, one confronted by people who know and despise the office setting. He could vaguely understand that there was something wrong with the world and his place in it, but needed to somehow externalize that meaning as a doppelganger in order to come to terms with the injustice that he believed himself to be confronting. He hated his own life, more or less...
    Perhaps, Dostoevsky intended us to see there is something of Golyadkin in us all. All a little mad.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    Perhaps, Dostoevsky intended us to see there is something of Golyadkin in us all. All a little mad.
    I construed Golyadkin as being a form of aimless anti-hero. Of all Dostoevsky's characters, I believe he is the one that I would single out and claim may be most readily understood by a contemporary audience. At heart, he is a bureaucrat, one who wishes to take pride in his livelihood but fundamentally cannot, someone who is pretentious enough to believe that he has ambitions in a certain amorphous direction (i.e conferring some sense of meaning on what seems to be a pathological sexuality; 'loving' a wealthy woman), though he really could not care less about any of that. In that spirit, I'm very surprised that the younger generation of modern times does not have more of an affinity for him. He espouses the desire that runs quite rampant in most levels of society during the scene of the cafe fiasco with Golyadkin junior. Specifically, he ultimately wants a free lunch in that chapter, a sentiment very akin to the contemporary sense of entitlement. If nothing else, I should think that readers of our modern age might look on this as a form of social satire, not unlike certain films which parody the office setting.

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    Registered User 2X2E5's Avatar
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    I am reading 'The Double' at the moment for a course, and having read the comments above, watched the recently release movie, and thought about the role of love and empathy in Dostoevsky's works, I came to realize that the original Golyadkin ("Goly" = naked), is a vulnerable spirit in some ways. Golyadkin Sr. like many introverts loves to imagine himself as mustering the confidence to be an outgoing guy that everyone likes, or else seen in Golyadkin Jr.. Like some of us or many of us, or none...at least myself, we've wanted at some point to be popular, out going, funny, charming, and feel as though we belong to a group were we can identify as a sort of leader, or have authority (people will listen and respect you). This is especially true in St.Petersburg, where rank, wealth, status, and class define or give a value to you. Golyadkin Sr. understands that in order to gain those qualities in St.Petersburg society he has to sell his soul - or sell his sanity because the only way a person with self-respect, dignity and humanity would either change themselves in order to be liked by idiots, acquire status, and chase bureaucratic rank for admiration, would be insane! Confronted by two choice: become charming and bureaucratically ambitious (inauthentic;existentialist), or get crushed by the city with all your humanity, empathy, and individuality.
    I once had fun. It was awful. - Grumpy Cat

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