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“The Overcoat” the Story by N. Gogol


In the short story “The Overcoat” N. Gogol portrays a small man influenced by social conditions and urban city. The main character of the story is Akakii Akakievich, who works as a clerk copying documents. His single intense desire is not for a rifle, but for an overcoat to replace the inadequate and pitiful rag that he has worn year after year through the winter’s snows.

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Using a symbol of an overcoat, Gogol vividly portrays hardship and life grievances experienced by a small man obtaining a low position in society.

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The title symbolically portrays the difficulties and hardships faced by the main character. Gogol recalled the thin top coat of his own early winter in the capital. Akakij Akakievič, absurd, naive, pathetic, fumbling, well-intentioned, hardworking, forlorn, eventually scrimps and saves until he is able to buy the new coat. The collar is made of cat-fur, but “at a distance it might be taken for marten”. His fellow clerks give a party to celebrate the acquisition of so noble a garment. But on the way home a pair of street thieves rob him of the coat, and the next day he appears at the office in utter dejection. “Akakiy Akakievitch ran home in complete disorder; his hair, which grew very thinly upon his temples and the back of his head, wholly disordered; his body, arms, and legs covered with snow“ (Gogol). His companions take up a small collection but it does not begin to approach the cost of a new coat. These events reflect that a small man in a city is miserable and unprotected (Maguire 75).

Using the little man as the main character googol human relations and the importance of social position and money in society. Akakij Akakievič takes his complaint to a Person of Consequence, but the Person of Consequence, irked by the intrusion of an insignificant clerk, has a small fit of bad temper and shows him the door. “The next day he made his appearance, very pale, and in his old cape, which had become even more shabby’ (Gogol). Poorly clad as he is, Akakij Akakievič takes ill from exposure, develops a fever, and dies. They bury him as a pauper.

Rumor has it that in the neighborhood of the Kalinkin Bridge a dead man appears at night in the form of a clerk looking for a stolen overcoat. Regardless of grade or call, he stops all passers-by and takes their overcoats from them by force. One cold and snowy night the Person of Consequence himself is driving in that vicinity, not homebound to his wife and children, but to visit a lady in another part of the city. Suddenly a gust of wind strikes him with unnatural force. The ghost of Akakij Akakievič seizes him by the collar and strips his overcoat from him. The Person of Consequence arrives at his doorstep pale and shaken. The next day he is more conscientious at his work and of meeker mien than before (Maus 76). Robberies of coats continue in Petersburg streets, but the robber is known to have great mustaches and not to resemble Akakij Akakievič in the least. After death, his spirit continues its mournful rounds, carrying out unceasingly the: movements of that night. Events of the story finally give him peace. Snowy night and a restless ghost make up the essence of Gogol’s concluding scene (Maguire 79).

This short story reacts directly to the oppressive social conditions brought about by rapid industrialization and capitalism. For one thing, it is a sweeping condemnation of capitalism which at the same time levels criticisms at certain elements of the socialist community. The plot is quite straightforward, though the narrative action is frequently interrupted by dialogues. On the other hand, Gogol himself consistently denied that his work had social or political relevance whatsoever and claimed to despise literary works that sought such relevance. The main issue of this short story is dramatized depictions of people in pain that gain power because of their parallels to the real pain of real people in various modern societies. underlines: “And St. Petersburg was left without Akakiy Akakievitch, as though he had never lived there. A being disappeared who was protected by none, dear to none, interesting to none, and who never even attracted to himself the attention of those students of human nature” (Gogol). It is, in fact, largely this vividness and particularity that give fiction a force that the theoretical ruminations of cultural critics lack.


In sum, Gogol vividly portrays that a city establishes its own values and norms forcing small people to follow them. Gogol attempts to discount the apparent social and political significance of his work. A man is invisible for the city influenced by his own needs and expectations, troubles, and grievances. When a man disappears, nobody notices this obsessed by his own needs and demands, life expectations, and hopes. Among other things, the centrality of a small man to the social life implies a society devoted strictly to the competition: for a better place and money.

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Works Cited

Gogol, N. The Overcoat. Web.

Maguire, R.A. Exploring Gogol. Stanford University, 1994.

Maus, D. The Devils in the Details: The Role of Evil in the Short Fiction of Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Papers on Language & Literature, 38 (2002): 76.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 17). “The Overcoat” the Story by N. Gogol.

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"“The Overcoat” the Story by N. Gogol." StudyCorgi, 17 Oct. 2021,

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