Does Golyadkin Really Have a Double? Dostoevsky Debunks the Mental Capacity and Insane Delusion Doctrines

Author:Any D. Ronner
Position:Professor of Law, St. Thomas University School of Law. J.D., 1985, University of Miami

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In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1 novel, The Double , Mr. Golyadkin, a civil servant, meets his identical twin:

Sitting on

his bed, also wearing a hat and coat, smiling slightly, puckering up his eyes and tipping him a friendly nod, was the stranger. Mr. Golyadkin wanted to scream, but could not—wanted to make some form of protest, but lacked the power. His hair stood on end, and he collapsed senseless with horror on the spot. And small wonder. He had fully recognized his friend of the night. It was none other than himself—Mr. Golyadkin . . . Another Mr.

Copyright © 2012, Amy D. Ronner.

* Professor of Law, St. Thomas University School of Law. J.D., 1985, University of Miami; Ph.D. (English Language and Literature), 1980, University of Michigan; M.A., 1976, University of Michigan; B.A., 1975, Beloit College. Professor Ronner, the author of LAW, LITERATURE, AND THERAPEUTIC JURISPRUDENCE (2010), lectured at the International Dostoevsky Conference in Naples, Italy in 2010. The author would like to dedicate her article to a real treasure, Deborah A. Martinsen, Ph.D., President of the International Dostoevsky Society, Associate Dean of Alumni Education, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Slavic Studies, Columbia University. Doctor Martinsen is an inspiration, a friend, and a mentor. The author especially thanks her husband, Michael P. Pacin, M.D. for his unconditional love, encouragement, and patience. Further, she thanks her talented and diligent research assistant, A. Starkey De Soto; law library guru, Professor Roy Balleste; and faculty assistant, Mariela Torres, who has been her “right arm” for nearly two decades.

1Because Fyodor Dostoevsky’s works have been translated from Russian to English, his name and his characters’ names are spelled differently among the various translations. This article refers to the author as “Dostoevsky,” however other acceptable spellings include “Dostoevskij” and “Dostoyevsky.” These alternates are displayed in the other sources referenced in this article. All variations refer to the same author. Further, this article refers to the main character as “Golyadkin,” while others translate his name to “Goljadkin.” Both are acceptable and refer to the same character.

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Golyadkin, but exactly the same as him . . . It was, in short, his double . . . [.]2

The Double , only the twenty-four year old Russian genius’s second published work, 3 was written during Dostoevsky’s pre-Siberian period, a time when he was shaping his own “personal and literary identity.” 4

Although the author himself was not satisfied with

The Double 5 —one of the great but lesser known Russian novels—it dispatches a timeless message that not only speaks to today’s lawyers, judges, and legal scholars, but could also conceivably transform traditional will and trust doctrines.

Although scholarship on Dostoevsky and the law is not new, most of it focuses on the post-Siberian period in which the author created some of his most famous masterpieces, such as

Crime and Punishment , The Idiot, Demons , and Brothers Karamazov . 6 Siberia was the turning point in

2FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY, THE DOUBLE (George Bird trans., 1958) (1846), reprinted in GREAT SHORT WORKS OF FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY, 44 (1st Perennial Classics ed. 2004).

3Ronald Hingley, Introduction to GREAT SHORT WORKS OF FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY, at ix (1st Perennial Classics ed. 2004).

4Richard J. Rosenthal, Dostoevsky’s Experiment with Projective Mechanisms and the Theft of Identity in The Double, in 31 RUSSIAN LITERATURE AND PSYCHOANALYSIS 59, 59

(Daniel Rancour-Laferriere ed., 1989).
5Dimitri Chizhevsky, The Theme of the Double in Dostoevsky, in DOSTOEVSKY: A

COLLECTION OF CRITICAL ESSAYS 112 (1965) (discussing Dostoevsky’s disappointment with

the form of the story); JOHN JONES, DOSTOEVSKY 83, 83–84 (1983) (discussing the author’s feelings of failure about the story); David Gasperetti, The Double: Dostoevskij’s Self-Effacing Narrative, 33 SLAVIC & E. EUR. J. 217, 217–18 (1989) (analyzing Dostoevsky’s

“grave doubts” about the novel); Lonny Roy Harrison, Duality and the Problem of Moral Self-Awareness in Dostoevsky’s Dvoinik (The Double), 188–89 (2008) (unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Toronto) (on file with author) (explaining that some of Dostoevsky’s discontent with the novel and desire to rework it was due to the critics’ unflattering assessments).

6See, e.g., AMY D. RONNER, LAW, LITERATURE, AND THERAPEUTIC JURISPRUDENCE 89– 149 (2010) (analyzing the therapeutic jurisprudence confession in Crime and Punishment); RICHARD H. WEISBERG, THE FAILURE OF THE WORD 48–49 (1984) (evaluating primarily

Porfiry Petrovich in Crime and Punishment as lawyer and officer of the court); Vera Bergelson, Crimes and Defenses of Rodion Raskolnikov, 85 KY. L.J. 919, 921 (1997) (attempting “to read Crime and Punishment and the Model Penal Code together, conducting a hypothetical ‘retrial’ of Rodion Raskolnikov”); William Burnham, The Legal Context and Contributions of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, 100 MICH. L. REV. 1227, 1232

(2002) (analyzing the novel through examining the legal system and the rules of evidence (continued)

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Dostoevsky’s career.7

Already a known novelist, Dostoevsky was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death for treason in 1849. 8 After about eight months in prison, officials led him and others into a public square and tied them to execution posts before a firing squad. 9 Just before discharging their shots, the soldiers received a halt command. 10 Thus, by order of Nicholas I, the Russian novelist and fellow prisoners were spared and their death sentences commuted to terms of hard labor and exile in Siberia. 11

After serving his term, Dostoevsky was permitted to return to St.

existing at the time); Robert F. Cochran, Jr., Crime, Confession, and the Counselor-At-Law: Lessons from Dostoyevsky, 35 HOUS. L. REV. 327, 358–59 (1998) (exploring the psychological and legal effects of confession on various characters, including Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment); Jeanne Gaakeer, “The Art to Find the Mind’s Construction in the Face,” Lombroso’s Criminal Anthropology and Literature: The Example of Zola, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, 26 CARDOZO L. REV. 2345, 2346 (2005) (exploring Cesare Lombroso’s view that Dostoevsky “was a criminal anthropologist who, in the character of Raskolnikov . . . depicted a fine specimen of the occasional criminal”).

7See Burnham, supra note 6, at 1228 (discussing the significance of this period in Dostoevsky’s life); cf. JOSEPH FRANK, DOSTOYEVSKY: THE MIRACULOUS YEARS 1865–1871,

3 (1995) (describing the period following exile as “the most remarkable in Dostoevsky’s career . . . .”).

8Burnham, supra note 6, at 1228; RONNER, supra note 6, at 89–90 (discussing Dostoevsky’s experience with the Russian criminal justice system). See also Ignat Avsey, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Life, in FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY, WINTER NOTES ON SUMMER

IMPRESSIONS 117, 120–21 (Kyril Fitzlyon trans., One-World Classics 2008) (describing what precipitated Dostoevsky’s arrest and sentencing—namely, his joining of a “special secret society,” which was “organized by the most radical member of the Petrashevsky Circle,” named after “the revolutionary and utopian socialist, Mikhail Petrashevsky”).

9Burnham, supra note 6, at 1228.

10In Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Prince Myshkin describes “a man . . . once taken up with others to the scaffold, and the death sentence by firing squad was read out to him, for a political offence” and “[s]ome twenty minutes later a reprieve was read out to him, and a different degree of punishment was fixed, but in the interval between the two sentences, twenty minutes, or at least quarter of an hour, he lived in the unquestionable conviction that in a few minutes’ time he would face sudden death.” FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY, THE IDIOT

70–71 (David McDuff trans., Penguin Books 2004) (1868).

11Burnham, supra note 6, at 1228.

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Petersburg where, in the wake of the traumatic ordeal, he would create some of his finest work.12

Dostoevsky was not a lawyer and lacked formal legal training.13

However, his later novels—particularly

Crime and Punishment , The House of the Dead , and Brothers Karamazov —display an uncanny insight not only into the law and the workings of the justice system but also into the very psyche of individuals who commit crimes. 14 Even before Siberia, Dostoevsky—who suffered from nervous attacks, seizures, and hallucinations—acquired an expertise in mental illness and instability. 15

Psychological nuggets of wisdom surface in

The Double , an important but sadly underrated novel. 16

The Double

is an uncomfortable story, not only because it forces readers to experience the kind of living hell that most readers hope to avoid

12See FRANK, supra note 7, at 3; JONES, supra note 5, at 3–4 (stating...

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