Despair Summary

Despair Summary

Hermann Karlovich is a German Russian who owns a chocolate factory. He meets his doppelgänger, a homeless man named Felix. He stops the man in the street and comments on the fact that they look nearly identical. The homeless man says he doesn't see the resemblance. Hermann's wife is Lydia, a somewhat air-headed woman.

In suggestive language, it is implied that Lydia is engaged in an affair with her own cousin, a man named Ardalion. Hermann insists that Lydia is head-over-heels for him and could never sleep with another. Even when he finds Ardalion and Lydia alone, behind closed doors, naked and embracing, he figures that it couldn't be what it looks like, and he ignores it.

One day, Hermann finds Felix again. He asks if Felix would consider pretending to be him for a while. Felix agrees, assuming Hermann's identity and getting in the role. Once he is a convincing stand-in, Hermann murders him in cold blood, to collect the insurance money he has on his own life.

Hermann shares his opinion that the perfect murder is also a work of art and poetry. But, actually, in a twist, Hermann's murder turns out not to be so perfect after all. The last word on the matter comes from the police who cannot see any resemblance between Hermann and his victim when, inevitably, they catch him.

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