The Construction of the Double as Social Object

Steve Hoenisch


Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Double traces the process of psychological breakdown that can occur when the formation and use of common social knowledge goes awry. To reveal how the novel's main character struggles to organize and use what to everyone else is common social knowledge, Dostoyevsky juxtaposes two versions of the same person, Golyadkin and his double, Golyadkin junior. The first Golyadkin, who comes to be known as Golyadkin senior, is a socially inept, anxiety-ridden bureaucrat desperately trying to fit into society. The second Golyadkin, known as Golyadkin junior, possesses, in stark contrast to Golyadkin senior, an extraordinary social grace with which he quickly wins for himself a secure and respected place in the world.

Because of the attention that writings of Dostoyevsky, especially [The Double, give to the organization and use of common social knowledge, they harbor an undeniable attraction from the point of view of ethnomethodology, an attraction made only more acute when ethnomethodology looks at Dostoyevsky's writings through the prism of Mikhail [Bakhtin's thought, which above all extols the multivoiced, or dialogic, nature of each of Dostoyevsky's characters: The voice of Golyadkin, for instance, endlessly argues with not only its external interlocutors but also itself. For Bakhtin, the pholyphonic voices that live in the novels of Dostoyevsky "do a kind of justice to life itself."1 As Wayne Booth points out, Bakhtin's pholyphonic philosophy lays siege to conventional sociology, indeed to all

"who think that the way to understand human behavior is to base literal propositions on studies of individuals as isolated countable units. If I am fundamentally constituted as polyphonic, then everything that any scientist, of whatever persuasion, might say about 'me,' in isolation from the many voices that constitute me and with which I speak, will be essentially faulty."2

Among Dostoyevsky's corpus, the ethnomethodoligcal appeal of The Double stems from the author's meticulous attention to how Golyadkin tries to develop a sense of common social knowledge and use it to establish a place for himself in the social order. This ethnomethodological appeal is heightened by the way Dostoyevsky provides an insider's view of the application and misapplication of common social knowledge. In fact, just as ethnomethodology seeks to get inside the data, Dostoyevsky unearths the processes behind the use of social knowledge from the inside by telling the story from a point of view and a language close to Golyadkin's own.3

Donald Fanger, a literary theorist speaking almost in the tones of ethnomethodology, offers a justification for choosing to apply ethnomethodology to a novel in the tradition of romantic realism: "The emphasis accorded normal psychological states, in its turn, serves to focus attention on what is most common in common experience -- not for its own sake, but for the sake of the closer knowledge it may provide of contemporary man."4 Nearly every page of The Double is devoted to documenting, from the inside, how Golyadkin forges his social and material world and tries to establish order within it through his interaction not only with his fellow members of society but also with the Bakhtinian other inside himself -- a Bakhtinian other which eventually materializes into the physical presence of Golyadkin junior.

Given this general nature of Dostoyevsky's novel, the aim of this essay is to use an ethnomethodological analysis of The Double to investigate how Golyadkin struggles to understand the social order and situate himself in it. In particular, I seek to demonstrate how he constructs his double as social object through inner dialogue and external conversation. With these objectives in mind, the essay proceeds as follows. First, after making a few more sociological and philosophical connections relevant to understanding Dostoyevsky's novel and justifying an ethnomethodological analysis of it, I will continue to develop the background knowledge and common sense knowledge, already touched on above, about the interaction between Golyadkin and his external interlocutors as well as his internal, conflicting voices. Second, I will investigate the construction, through Golyadkin's internal dialogues and conversational interactions, of the double as a social object. A conclusion summarizes the essay's central points. Throughout, in keeping with this essay's Baktinian leaning, I have not shied away from giving ample space to the cited voices of others, whether fictional characters or philosophical figures, with the hope of making perceptible the range and nuances of their views.

From the Individual to the Social

Dostoyevsky's characters are not only of individual and psychological dimensions, but of social dimensions too. George Lukacs, commenting on Balzac's heightening of character, makes an observation that applies equally to Dostoyevsky, who like Balzac is writing in the tradition of romantic realism: "What he did was to depict the typical characters of his time, while enlarging them to dimensions so gigantic ... [that they] can never pertain to single human beings, only to social forces."5 Dostoyevsky, in his preface to Notes from Underground, acknowledges that he is doing as much:

"If we take into consideration the conditions that have shaped our society, people like the [imaginary narrator of Notes from Underground] not only may, but must, exist in that society. I have tried to present to the public in a more striking form than is usual a character belonging to the very recent past, a representative figure from a generation still surviving. In the chapter entitled "The Underground" this personage introduces himself and his outlook on life, and tries, as it were, to elucidate the causes that brought about, inevitably brought about, his appearance in our midst."6

As such, Dostoyevsky's novels show how participants come to understand themselves in relation to the social order of their time and place. For Dostoyevsky, understanding, or misunderstanding as the case may be with Golyadkin, is of central concern. And that understanding is revealed through the dialogic intermingling of social voices, taken as social forces. Though ascribed to various individuals in his novels, the understanding revealed through the polyphony of voices always remains linked to the social order. Bakhtin puts it thus:

As an artist, Dostoyevsky did not create his ideas in the same way philosophers or scholars create theirs -- he created images of ideas found, heard, sometimes divined by him in reality itself, that is, ideas already living or entering life as idea- forces. Dostoyevsky possessed an extraordinary gift for hearing the dialogue of his epoch, or, more precisely, for hearing his epoch as a great dialogue, for detecting in it not only individual voices, but precisely and predominantly the dialogic relationship among voices, their dialogic interaction.7

Garfinkel's View of Understanding For Dostoyevsky and Bakhtin, then, understanding is closely connected to social activity, much like it is in Harvey Garfinkel's thought. Deborah [Schiffrin, a discourse analyst, details Garfinkel's view of understanding as follows:

Much of Garfinkel's research reveals that participants' understandings of their circumstances provide for the stable organization of their social activities. Such understandings, however, are not ready and waiting apart from their human activity: participants continually engage in interpretive activity -- and thus reach understandings -- as a way of seeking order and normalcy during the course of their everyday conduct.8

Golyadkin, whose own social activities are rather unstable, is at a loss to understand his social circumstances, even before he is confronted with his own double, which of course only further destabilizes the social order. But, ironically, it seems as if Golyadkin's double becomes the mechanism by which he seeks to return social order to his unstable world, much like Agnes did in her world by invoking the mechanism that Garfinkel calls passing. At any rate, the novel chronicles Golyadkin's attempts to find a sense of order in his world, to interpret and understand his own social circumstances and his relation to the world in which he is lost. Underlying his journey is the search for order and normalcy to which Schiffrin, speaking for Garfinkel, refers.

Indeed, Golyadkin's invocation of his double as a mechanism to establish order and normalcy to his unstable social existence mirrors Agnes's use of passing, defined by Garfinkel as "the work of achieving and making secure her rights to live as a normal, natural female while having continually to provide for the possibility of detection and ruin carried on within socially structured conditions."9 Golyadkin's passing may be of an even more fundamental sort: Unlike Agnes, he is working not to secure his rights to live as a normal, natural female (or male) but to live as a normal, natural human despite his madness. Or, to be a bit more generous to Golyadkin, he is merely working to achieve and secure a certain social status in society. Either way, throughout the book Golyadkin is providing for the possibility of detection and ruin carried on within socially structured conditions: The possibility of Golyadkin's detection and ruin lies either in his madness or in his unsuitability for society (or perhaps both, for his madness and his own suspicions that he is somehow ill-suited for society come together in his insecurity). But it is nevertheless clear that Golyadkin is working to secure his place in society while he lives in the shadows fearing that he will be exposed as an impostor -- as someone unfit for the social station he claims as his own. Golyadkin also seems to be working to secure his fundamental human right to a social existence despite his madness, which is manifested in his chronic social ineptness and anxiety as well as in his difficulty distinguishing the real from the unreal, a difficulty that Dostoyevsky, disputing Descartes's world view, may be suggesting is all too human.

The Unclear and the Undistinct

From the first pages of the novel, set in St Petersburg in 1846, Golyadkin, as he struggles to understand his world and his relation to it, is not entirely sure what is real and what is not. A sense of modernist realism, accompanied by strong allusions to Descartes, marks the separation of the real from the unreal, a distinction that takes center stage throughout the book. The line between the real and the unreal, between order and disorder, between "clear and distinct" impressions and muddied ones, between dreams and reality, pervades the entire work. In fact, the reader is left uncertain whether Golyadkin's double is an actual person or merely the projection of Golyadkin's delusions. The opening lines of the novel, which begin Dostoyevsky's indictment of Cartesian epistemology and metaphysics, set the stage for the uncertainties to come:

"It was a little before eight o'clock in the morning when Titular Councillor Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin woke from a long sleep, yawned, stretched, and finally opened his eyes completely. He lay motionless in bed, however, for a couple of minutes more, like a man who is not yet quite sure whether he is awake or still asleep, and whether what is happening around him is real and actual or only the continuation of his disordered dreams. Soon, however, Mr. Golyadkin's senses began to receive more clearly and distinctly their usual ordinary impressions. ... Finally, the dull, dirty, grey autumn day peered into the room at him through the cloudy window-panes with a grimace so sour and bad-tempered that Mr Golyadkin could no longer have the slightest doubt: he was not in some far-distant realm but in the capital, in the town of St Petersburg, in his own flat on the fourth floor of a large and imposing building in Shestilavvochny Street. Having made this important discovery, Mr Golyadkin convulsively closed his eyes, as though regretting his recent awakening and wishing to bring his sleep back for a minute. But a moment later he leapt from his bed with one bound, probably because he had at last stumbled upon the idea round which his scattered thoughts, not yet reduced to order, had been revolving."

The uncertainties that Golyadkin faces in this except -- for instance, about whether he is asleep or awake, dreaming or not, in St Petersburg or a province -- characterize the theme of the novel and culminate in Golyadkin's, and indeed the reader's, uncertainty about whether his double is real. These uncertainties, many of them social, are also used to undermine the Cartesian axiom of "I think, therefore I am" by recasting it in relation to the social. The version of cognito ergo sum that takes shape in The Double parodies Descartes's; it is, "I think double thoughts, therefore I am twofold." Dostoyevsky's reaction against Cartesian thought places the emphasis on the individual surrounded by others, rather than the disembodied Cartesian ego -- a move that also takes place in the work of Husserl10 and makes the novel particularly intriguing from the philosophical perspective that underlies ethnomethodology. In other words, to tie this in with another figure who influenced Garfinkel, the individual's "experience does not form a shut-off, private domain, but a way of being-in- the-world; we live our lives in the perceptual milieu of a human world, ... irreducible to pure or private consciousness,"11 as Simon [Blackburn, a philosopher, puts it.

The Double as Social Object

The question I am raising about The Double, then, is not only directed toward the general concern of how Dostoyevsky creates the social order in the novel, but also how Golyadkin junior -- the double -- is constructed as a social object. If we are to take at full value Bakhtin's observation of Dostoyevsky as the creator of the polyphonic novel, that is, if we are to acknowledge with Bakhtin that the force of Dostoyevsky's artistry lies in releasing his characters from his own control, thereby leaving them to endow themselves with lives, courses of action, and, above all, voices of their own, quite independent of the author's overt control, then the first certainty is that Dostoyevsky does not create Golyadkin's Double. Golyadkin does. Part of the impetus for Golyadkin's split, as I will make apparent, lies in his contradictory thoughts and actions, in his swift and frequent changes of mind, in his double thoughts, often exemplified in his inner dialogue with himself:

 "the laughter in Mr Goyadkin's face changed into a strangely anxious expression"12

 "`Ought I to bow? Should I speak to him or not? Ought I to acknowledge our acquaintance?'"13

The above quotations point to the primary driving force behind Golyadkin's split: social anxiety. In encountering his boss in the street, Golyadkin is unsure whether to greet him or not, as the last of the above quotes reveals. In response to the excruciating social anxiety he feels, Golyadkin takes refuge in a denial of the self at the same time that he acknowledges his supervisor:

"Or shall I pretend it's not me but somebody else strikingly like me, and look as if nothing's the matter?" said Mr Golyadkin, lifting his hat to Andrey Philippovich and not taking his eyes off him. "I. ... It's all right," he whispered, hardly able to speak. "It's quite all right; this is not me at all, Andrey Philippovich, it's not me at all, not me, and that's all about it."14

At issue in an ethnomethodological analysis of The Double are the categories or techniques that Golyadkin uses to make sense of (or to misinterpret) his interaction with Philippovich and others. Especially important are the categories or techniques from which his double is constructed. Ethnomethodologists argue that "the proper object of sociological study is the set of techniques that the members of a society themselves utilize to interpret and act within their own social worlds."15 The question thus becomes, What patterns recur in the interactions of Golyadkin with others that may suggest structurally meaningful categories or sets of techniques? I have referred to a few such patterns above. I will now turn to unearthing more of the categories of analysis and social techniques that Golyadkin uses.

Categories and Techniques

The first pattern, already apparent from the above passages, is the indecision, uncertainty, and double thoughts that Golyadkin has when faced with a social situation; this indecision, and its accompanying double thoughts, both of which often result in self-contradictory behavior or utterances, mark his confrontation in the second chapter with not only Philippovich but also Doctor Christian Ivanovich Rutenspitz. The uncertainty, indecision, double thoughts, and the self-contradictions in social behavior and utterance to which they give rise are, it seems, the primary categories from which Golyadkin junior is constructed, as will become increasingly apparent in the course of my analysis.

Indecision and uncertainty underlie Golyadkin's reasoning over whether he should visit Dr. Rutenspitz. The heightened dialogic nature of Golyadkin's conversations with himself enable the reader to get inside the process by which Golyadkin tries to come to a decision about the visit. Golyadkin's uncertainty about whether it is the "proper thing to do" lies at the root of his indecision. He asks himself, "will it be all right? Is it a proper thing to do? Will this be the right time? However, does it really matter?"16 His decision to proceed with his visit to the doctor hinges on his observation that he's "come about my own business" -- an acid test that for Golyadkin separates proper lines of social action from impermissible ones. Nevertheless, Golyadkin continues to use these double thoughts and the self-contradictions that attend them to find his position in the world as he approaches the doctor's door:

 he "tried to give his countenance a suitably detached but not unamiable air"

 "he hastily decided, just in time, that it might be better to wait ... but ... immediately changed his mind again"17

After entering the doctor's quarters, Golyadkin continues his struggles to find postures appropriate to the social situation. He is, in effect, conducting an open negotiation of social position with the doctor, at this point mostly through gesture, expression, and posture. In the exchange, Dostoyevsky makes clear that Golyadkin commits a series of deviations from accepted social practice that culminate in Golyadkin staring at the doctor, a final solecism through which, Dostoyevsky writes, Golyadkin conveys his independence:

Then recollecting himself and dimly apprehending that he had now committed two solecisms in a row, he instantly decided on a third, that is he embarked on an apology, muttered a few words, smiled, blushed, grew confused, lapsed into eloquent silence, and finally sat down and remained sitting, while protecting himself against all contingencies with the same challenging stare that possessed such exceptional powers of mentally annihilating and reducing to ashes all the enemies of Mr Golyadkin. The stare ... stated clearly that Mr Golyadkin didn't care, he was his own master, like anybody else, and his life was his own.

Although more detached than usual from Golyadkin's internal dialogue, the passage, which continues to emphasize Golyadkin's uncertainly and indecision about what to do in social situations, reveals several additional categories through which he begins to construct his double as social object apart from himself. One of them is revealed by Golyadkin's "challenging stare." It simulates independence; as Dostoyevsky says, Golyadkin uses it to imply that he is his own master, in contrast to being controlled by others or even by the social situation. (In contrast, later in the book Golyadkin junior often sneers at the appearance of Golyadkin senior. Examples of this posture abound: "`Well, sir?' asked Mr Golyadkin junior, facing Mr Golyadkin senior with some insolence"18; "Mr Golyadkin junior glanced ironically at Mr Golyadkin senior, thus openly and impudently flouting him."19 Golyadkin senior's displeased glances upon seeing Golyadkin junior contrast with the latter's mischievous, fraudulent smiles toward the former.)

As alluded to in the excerpt above, a second category that Golyadkin uses to interpret his interactions is the notion of enemy: Golyadkin, obsessed with his own unstated enemies, frequently aspires to categorize his interlocutor as friend, neutral, or nemesis. For instance:

 "`I have enemies ... I have bitter enemies who have sworn to ruin me."20

 "our hero's relations with them were neutral, neither of friendship nor of open enmity."21

Psychotherapeutic Conversation

The psychotherapeutic conversation that Golyadkin next has with Dr. Rutenspitz reveals additional categories through which Golyadkin attempts to make sense of social interaction, establish his social position, and eventually construct his double as a mechanism for stabilizing the social order. This interaction, however, is complicated by the possibility that Golyadkin's words are directed not so much toward Rutenspitz but toward the reflection of his own alter-ego, which takes the form of Rutenspitz. In speaking with Ivanovich, Golyadkin engages in a metaphorical dialogue with his other self. That is, the voice of Golyadkin's selves can be heard in the speech of both him and Ivanovich. Their conversation foreshadows Golyadkin's split into the anxious, socially dysfunctional Golyadkin and the well- poised, socially successful Golyadkin junior. In the passage, Golyadkin primarily represents the voice of Golyadkin senior (henceforth simply Golyadkin), while Ivanovich's speech represents the partially objectified voice of Golyadkin junior -- objectified because it is, at least in comparison to the discourse of Golyadkin, authoritative and monologic. Ivanovich, in contrast to Golyadkin, projects a relatively nonhybridized, fixed voice. Ivanovich, then, represents an early objectified version of Golyadkin's well-socialized double. As will become apparent during the micro-analysis below, his speech contains a "predominance of socio-typical determining factors."22 Golyadkin's speech, on the other hand, is polyphonic, containing the traits of what Bakhtin calls active discourse: It has, for instance, "hidden internal polemics" and "polemically colored autobiography and confession."23 It is "discourse with a sideways glance at someone else's word.24" In the Ivanovich-Golyadkin passage, Golyadkin's sideways glance is directed toward the reflection of his own alter-ego, which takes the form of Ivanovich.

During Golyadkin's psychotherapeutic conversation with Dr Rutenspitz, a set of social categories come to the fore. One of the categories used by Golyadkin is sameness. As he engages in social situations, including the one with the doctor, one of his mantras is that "he was like everyone else."25 Another is independence: "I go my own way"; "I am a man apart"; "I don't depend on anybody."26 A third is that he can't shine in society and hasn't learned social tricks: "I am not a master of eloquence"; "in society, ... you must learn how to polish the parquet with your shoes [etc.] ... and I've not learned to do all that."27 A fourth is that Golyadkin is "not an intriguer": "I have nothing to hide"; "I am not an intriguer," he says.28 Finally, there is the traditional technique of the anxiety-ridden neurotic, inspired, quite stereotypically, by the fear of social infection: constant hand-washing. "`I won't sully myself [...] I wash my hands of it,'" Golyadkin says metaphorically.29 Golyadkin's use of several of these social categories and techniques are so removed from the doctor's reality that he fails to understand them. For instance:

`I am not a master of eloquence, as far as I am aware,' said Mr Golyadkin, in a half-offended tone of voice, slightly losing the thread and stumbling a little. `In this respect [...] I am not like other people [...] I act; I act, on the other hand, Christian Ivanovich!'

`H'm. ... How do you mean ... you act?'30

Another example:

`I am a simple, uncomplicated person, and it isn't in me to shine in society. [...] I lower my sword, speaking in that sense.' All this Mr Golyadkin uttered, of course, with an air that said plainly that he was not in the least sorry to lay down his arms in that sense, or that he had never learnt social tricks, even quite the contrary.

`You appear to have digressed slightly from the point,' said Christian Ivanovich at last softly, `and I confess I couldn't quite follow you.'31

And again:

`I will only ask you [...] how would you set about revenging yourself on an enemy, your bitterest enemy -- somebody you hadn't thought of in that way.'

The doctor `declared ... that he did not altogether follow.' 32

Finally, apparently in response to their entire conversation thus far:

Slightly confounded, Christian Ivanovich seemed for a moment glued to his chair, and stared helplessly at Mr Golyadkin, who gazed back at him in the same manner.33

Additional categories and techniques also unfold during Golyadkin's conversation with Dr Rutenspitz. To represent one such category, Golyadkin uses the metaphor of the mask, which in turn casts social life as, at least in Golyadkin's eyes, a carnivalized version of reality, like a masquerade ball wherein a hoax is being played on him: "`when everything is revealed, and the mask has fallen from certain faces, and something is laid bare.'"34 Yet another technique that Golyadkin uses is paranoia, believing that the people with whom he interacts have either "`unmixed motives'" or "`ulterior motives.'"35 Another category is whether a person is a somebody or a nobody, mirroring Golyadkin's own anxiety about being a nobody, which later becomes manifest in Golyadkin senior's deflated social status amid Golyadkin junior's inflated status. This category also surfaces in Golyadkin's conversation with Dr Rutenspitz, when Golyadkin says that "`even a chemist nowadays is a somebody.'" The remark leaves the doctor perplexed: "`What? In what sense do you mean?'"36 In fact, the remark also leaves the reader perplexed, wondering what the passage, which occurs early in the book, could possibly mean. The remark begins to make sense only when seen as another of Golyadkin's techniques for making sense of his place in the social order. A related category lies in the tension between a public and a private life, a tension only worsened by the modernization of Russian society that Dostoyevsky is, as a sideline, documenting. In Golyadkin's eyes, most people are "`such slaves to public opinion'"37 that they cannot speak the truth. In keeping with ethnomethodology, these categories of analysis are, as I am attempting to show, those that Golyadkin himself uses to make sense of interaction.

Bakhtinian Style Markers

Several stylistic markers, all of which are based on Bakhtin's writings but derive inductively from the text in a way not incompatible with the ethnomethodological point of view, come into play in an analysis of the Ivanovich-Golyadkin exchange, reinforcing the Garfinkel-inspired identification of categories and techniques used by Golyadkin to negotiate his interaction with Philippovich and, ultimately, construct his double. The first stylistic marker, repetition or long-windedness, signals a strong stance against the other as well as self- assurance -- a self-assurance necessitated by a lack of self- confidence. A marker of a strong stance against both the internal other and the external other, repetition or long-windedness may signal for Golyadkin the simulation of independence; that is, resistance to socialization. For Ivanovich, repetition or long- windedness marks domination, often manifested as admonishments for the other to change.

Throughout The Double, as Bakhtin points out, Golyadkin's repetitions often take the form of self-comforting speech in which he repeatedly tells himself that "he's his own man" and, seemingly in contradiction, that "he's like everybody else." Bakhtin writes that "Golyadkin's speech seeks, above all, to simulate total independence from the other's words," leading to endless repetitions that are "directed not outward, not toward another, but toward Golyadkin's own self: he persuades himself, reassures and comforts himself, plays the role of another person vis-a-vis himself."38 Meantime, however, Bakhtin notes another orientation toward the other's voice: "the desire to hide from it, to avoid attracting attention to himself, to bury himself in the crowd, to go unnoticed."39 The simulation of independence and the avoidance of attention, as indicated by the repetition of Golyadkin's discourse and content of his utterances, describes two of Golyadkin's orientations, Bakhtin says. Accordingly, the simulation of independence can be seen as an act of resistance to society, while the avoidance of attention can be seen as hopes of assimilating to it. Both of these tendencies manifest themselves poignantly in the dialogue between Golyadkin and Ivanovich.

In contrast to repetition and long-windedness, a loss of words marks a mitigating, retreating, or receiving position in relation to the other. Reception can in turn give way to concession or submission, which forms, Bakhtin says, the third noteworthy orientation of Golyadkin. In the dialogue between Golyadkin and Ivanovich, submission forms a bridge between the simulation of independence and the desire for social assimilation: It is through capitulating to the socially dependent other within himself that Golyadkin's desire to socialize rises to the surface of conversation. However, concession or submission is, at least in the passage in question, marked simply by the content of the speech. These general characteristics of Golyadkin's and Ivanovich's speech -- one polyphonic, internally polemical, double-edged, the other relatively monologic, authoritative, fixed -- illustrate their dispositions. Golyadkin prides himself at once on his independence and on his being like everyone else. He resists socialization but craves it. Meantime, Ivanovich, with his "ribbon of an important Order,"40 seems to be a model of assimilation, of success within the dominant social order. Indeed, Golyadkin and Ivanovich are opposites. But since Ivanovich reflects the other within Golyadkin, their relationship foreshadows Golyadkin's split into the anxiety-ridden, socially inept Golyadkin senior and the assimilated, respected, suave Golyadkin junior.

Advice Taken to Extremes

The psychotherapeutic conversation with Dr Rutenspitz foreshadows Golyadkin's split. In fact, Dr Rutenspitz's prescription for Golyadkin's ills supports the impetus for the split. The doctor tells Golyadkin: "`the treatment must consist in changing your habits. ... Well, relaxation, something to take you out of yourself.'" ... "`H'm....I was saying,' the doctor interrupted, `that you require a radical transformation of your whole life and, in a certain sense, a change in your character.'"41 Golyadkin takes the suggestion seriously. His response: Construct a double that takes him, quite literally, out of himself and radically transforms the whole of his being.

The Birth of the Double

Golyadkin's use of the categories and techniques that I identified above continues -- in fact, falls into something of a sequence -- until a familiar stranger emerges from a damp and foggy St. Petersburg night. The familiar stranger is of course Golyadkin's double. Leading up to the double's birth, Golyadkin continues to apply his categories and techniques. To sum up, they fall into roughly the following sequence:

1. Golyadkin is "conscious of his freedom"42 or of defending his private life. His anxiety impels him to defend a strong distinction between private and public life.

2. He approaches social situations with indecision and ambivalence.

3. His thoughts are pervaded by an internal dialogue that rapidly iterates between self-flattery and self-reproach. At the same time, he struggles to choose between two competing social presentations: self-effacement and self- acknowledgement.

4. Similarly, in his internal dialogue he also iterates between anxiously overemphasizing the importance of some social incident and denying that it has any importance at all.

5. When on the brink of a social encounter, Golyadkin is "hiding himself..."43 or "mentally entertaining the desire to sink through the ground or hide himself, together with his carriage, in a mouse hole."44 In contrast, when at a social event, he tries to convince himself and others that he is "at home here, I'm mean I'm in my rightful place."45

6. He categorizes each interlocutor as friend, enemy, or neutral.

7. He insists that others have "only known one side of"46 him up till now or that they have not known him at all.

8. At the same time, however, he insist at least to himself that "he was no different from anybody else."47

9. He casts a "terrible annihilating glance"48 or defiant stare at his interlocutors.

10. He makes reference either to people, like himself, "who do not like deviousness and who wear a mask only at masked balls"49 or to people who are always wearing a mask.

11. He makes reference to his own social ill-ease or to the ease with which others "polish a parquet floor with their shoes."50

12. He obsessively maintains that he is "not an intriguer,"51 and that the others around him are. The others "thrust their noses in where they are not wanted."52

13. He eventually takes action to escape "from his enemies, from persecution,"53 from the annihilating stares of others.

14. And finally, moments before the birth of his double, Golyadkin looked as if he was trying to hide from himself, as if he wanted to run away from himself. ... Mr. Golyadkin wanted not only to run away from himself but even to annihilate himself, to cease to be, to return to the dust.54


Golyadkin's inability to give up his idiosyncratic views of social life (or the madness that does not allow him to do so) and to see it in a common way leads to his psychological breakdown and, eventually, his forceful removal from society by Dr. Ivanovich Rutenspitz. By the end of the story, after Golyadkin Jr. has split off from himself and left Golyadkin Sr. teetering on the edge of social exile, appearing to the rest of society as nothing short of mad, Ivanovich, the psychiatrist, removes Golyadkin Sr. from a social gathering and whisks away to the asylum.

In summary, my analysis of The Double, which has relied upon such ethnomethodological tenets as "the study of participants' own methods of production and interpretation of social interaction" with an emphasis on "the data and the patterns recurrently displayed therein,"55 has demonstrated, with the help of Bakhtin, how the novel's antihero constructs a double as a social object through inner dialogue and external conversation.


1. Wayne C. Booth, Introduction to Mikhail Bakhtin, [Problems in Dostoevsky's Poetics, ed. and trans. by Caryl Emerson, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. xxvi.

2. Ibid. p. xxv.

3. Donald Fanger, Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), p. 162.

4. Ibid. p. 11.

5. ibid. p. 17.

6. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground, trans. Jessie Coulson (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1972), p. 13.

7. Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems in Dostoevsky's Poetics, ed. and trans. by Caryl Emerson, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 90. Emphasis in original.

8. Deborah Schiffrin, Approaches to Discourse (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1994), p. 233.

9. Harold Garfinkel, Studies in Ethnomethodology (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity Press, 1967), p. 137.

10. Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 181.

11. Ibid. p. 239.

12. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Double, trans. Jessie Coulson (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1972), p. 131.

13. Ibid. p. 132.

14. Ibid. p. 132.

15. Stephen C. Levinson, [Pragmatics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 295.

16. Dostoyevsky, The Double, p. 132.

17. Ibid. p. 133.

18. Ibid. p. 203.

19. Ibid. p. 207.

20. Ibid. p. 139. 

21. Ibid. p. 146.

22. Ibid. p. 199.

23. Ibid. p. 199.

24. Ibid. 

25. Ibid. p. 135.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid. p. 136.

28. Ibid. p. 137.

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid. p. 136.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid. p. 137-138.

33. Ibid. p. 138.

34. Ibid. p. 139.

35. Ibid. p. 141.

36. Ibid. p. 140.

37. Ibid.

38. Bakhtin, Problems in Dostoevsky's Poetics, pp. 211-212.

39. Ibid. p. 212.

40. Dostoyevsky, The Double, p. 133.

41. Ibid. p. 135.

42. Ibid. p. 143.

43. Ibid. p. 144.

44. Ibid. p. 151.

45. Ibid. p. 162.

46. Ibid. p. 147.

47. Ibid. p. 161.

48. Ibid. p. 148.

49. Ibid. p. 147.

50. Ibid.

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid. 165.

54. Ibid. p. 166.

55. Levinson, [Pragmatics, p. 295.

Short Cuts

"When a great many people agree that a problem is insignificant, that usually means it is not. Insignificance is the locus of true significance." -- Roland Barthes, [The Grain of the Voice, p. 177.

"The social, conformist world always bases its idea of nature on the fact that things resemble each other, and the resulting idea of nature is both artificial and repressive: the 'natural.' Common sense always considers things that resemble each other 'natural.'" The essays in [Mythologies, in fact, "present themselves as a denunciation of `what goes without saying.'" -- Roland Barthes, [The Grain of the Voice, p. 208.


The common belief in sociology that orderliness is the result of rules that govern the interaction of, say, workers is seen as simplistic under ethnomethodology. Rules, at best, advise participants. Additional aspects of social order, such as background assumptions and Harold Garfinkel's documentary method of interpretation, are also present.

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