In Gogol’s Overcoat, the reader is overcome with a great sense of pity for Akaky. He’s a sad man – not just because of his relative linguistic incompetency or his inability to perform tasks that extend beyond a simple copy job but because all of his peers see him as utterly beneath them. He is unfit of any type of respect. They can torment him without any sort of recognition for the important tasks he can complete without fail. Much of this ridicule comes from his “night gown.”
Here the “night gown” is a reflection of the role of social status in the Russian Society. His coat reflects his rank and stance in society. He lives in the dank part of St. Petersburg and occupies a lower rank than his peers who sport lavish coats with beaver fur collars. Gogol shows that performance and capability matters little. Prestige is really just superficial. Akaky’s stance and acceptance by his peers fluctuates with his appearance. When he finally obtains his new coat his coworkers notice him but this is only temporary.
Gogol is absolutely critiquing the manner in which power and respect is garnered in Russian Society. I guess one of my questions pertains to the significance of Akaky’s ghost and how he haunts the city. Is this a foreshadowing of how the lower gentry or bureaucracy will eventually rise up and take “revenge” on the self absorbed and entitled upper class? If yes, how would such literature be perceived by those Russians who could read and appreciate Gogol’s work?
The Catechism of the Revolutionary is disturbing to say the least, but it clearly defines the lengths that the revolutionary fanatic authors were willing to go to see Russia destroyed. From the very beginning, Bakunin and Nechaev define a true revolutionary as someone that exists solely for the purpose of carrying out a revolution, and for a revolutionary, all else in life is a distant second.
The pure annihilation preached by Bakunin and Nechaev is extreme, but they state in no uncertain terms just what a revolutionary is and what they live for. Their idea of revolution could be said to be pure, as it defines the revolution as a central aspect of life. In fact, their commitment to the revolution and their belief in its purpose is borderline religious. They write that to be a true revolutionary, one must sever all ties, visible or not, to the government and civil order itself, and they may only exist in the civilized world “for the purpose of its more total and speedier destruction” (p. 352).
The Catechism of the Revolutionary classifies people into different classes based on their dedication to the cause, their standing in the Russian government, and even their sex. They determine a person to be a comrade only if they can devote themselves to the revolution and a human only if they can offer something to the revolution. Their class system is nearly as complete as the Table of Ranks created by Peter the Great, and it clearly defines the purposes and fate of many different people groups.
Nechaev and Bakunin are absolutely clear when they define their vision, but one of the most important statements that they make is said in Paragraph 24. They state that they didn’t lay out this design for a group that would seize power from the government, they only created the system to tear down the government that already existed. After the social order and the government are gone, they leave it up to the people to build a new system after they’ve done their job.