The Overcoat

The language and imagery with which Nikolai Gogol writes allows the reader to further identify with the plight of Akaky Akakievich Bashmachin and his need to buy a new coat. This story really discusses how class affected how people interacted with one another and how people had to behave in order to live according to the social norms of the time. Akaky believed that by having a proper coat, he would be more successful in his job, however his need to conform to this social norm that results in his death. However, Gogol introduces the true cause of Akaky’s death, the drastic differences between the social classes and those trapped in the middle. Akaky was not in the lowest class nor was he in the upper class; this put him in a bit of a limbo, especially when one reads of the interactions between him and the Important Person. The greatest difference between the two characters is their standing in the social hierarchy and what one finds to be more important. To Akaky the coat represented the hours he worked and the things he and his family had to forgo in order to afford that coat, while to the Important Person it’s simply a coat. The ghost of Akaky’s new goal is to take the coats from others to compensate for his own stolen one. The final scene in which the Important Person gets his own coat stolen almost seems to symbolize the rise of the lower class over the higher ranked officials.

I was interesting to me to read this story and made me question why and how this story was published as it insults the social hierarchy and the importance of certain people. How did the general public view this story? Was it popular among a specific group of people?

One thought on “The Overcoat

  1. I found this short story, to an extent, to serve more as a lesson for the ruling class of the Russian society. Specifically providing the message to not ignore the lower classes for they will eventually rise up and bring an end to the civilization as a whole.

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