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The tailor distinguishes himself from other tailors who only repair clothing, and who don’t possess the skill to make a completely new garment. Akaky’s low social status clearly influences the way he is treated: the Superintendent does not treat him like the victim of a crime—rather, he treats the clerk as if. Here Gogol makes an argument for the value of art (which is another kind of “material good,” and arguably the most “elevated” kind) to give new meaning to life, and he consequently adds another layer of symbolism to the overcoat itself. The Question and Answer section for The Overcoat is a great As hard as he has tried, Akaky remains insignificant. It seems that the clerk is always trying to catch up with himself—whenever he comes into some extra money, he must use it to pay off his debts. Akaky’s old, worn overcoat becomes a symbol for the government’s inability to provide basic needs to its impoverished citizens—even those who work constantly like Akaky. He's dead. It is ironic that Akaky has much more power in death than in life, and he also seems to have a much more forceful will—it’s impossible to imagine the living Akaky confronting superior officials and stealing from them. The Overcoat, short story by Nikolay Gogol, published in Russian as “Shinel” in 1842. As a poor man in 19th-century Russia, Akaky doesn't exactly live in a safe neighborhood. Gogol emphasizes how poor Akaky Akakievich is. Once again, the fact that Akaky has no real power or status means that no one will care enough to help him. Though he is initially upset by the need for the new overcoat, he soon finds in the quest to save up for and design the new overcoat a higher purpose. At the same time, the coat opens up a whole new dimension of experience for Akaky: suddenly he has a social life, and goes out at night for the first time in years. The Overcoat essays are academic essays for citation. This material possession immediately raises Akaky’s status in the department, and highlights the idea that people only care about outward appearances. Akaky’s cursing just before his death suggests his repressed anger regarding his maltreatment and the injustice of his life, and foreshadows his revenge on the Important Person in the form of a ghost. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. © 2020 Shmoop University Inc | All Rights Reserved | Privacy | Legal. Even though the overcoat has raised his reputation among his fellow civil servants, this passage shows that Akaky’s social standing is still very limited. The last official tries to make amends with Akaky a week later, but it's too late. We would also need to know the answer to Part A. For the best experience on our site, be sure to turn on Javascript in your browser. At the same time, this final scene also shows Gogol veering off into the absurd again, leaving behind his protagonist and avoiding a neat conclusion to the story of one insignificant clerk in St. Petersburg. The story now takes a fantastical twist, as Akaky’s ghost returns to the mortal world, seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. Gogol suggests that those in power must see their “inferiors” as human beings with value and dignity—and not just after they’ve died. “The Overcoat” tells the story of the life and death of Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin, an unremarkable and indeed pathetic middle-aged titular councillor and copying clerk serving in an unnamed department of the Russian civil service. Finally the last official is so mean to Akaky that he dejectedly walks home without a coat in the harsh Russian winter. The overcoat seemed to give Akaky a sense of purpose and value in life, and even to make him into a more complete human being, but now that has been snatched away from him. For the Important Person, every aspect of life is meant to uphold and reinforce his “importance”—he even has a mistress just because that’s what is fashionable for high-ranking officials. What's he to do? These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol. Not so fast there, kiddo. The Narrator then immediately turns around and mocks Akaky for neglecting every other aspect of his life—his clothes, food, social life, and immediate surroundings. Struggling with distance learning? Akaky’s love for his boring job may strike the reader as bizarre, but by vividly describing Akaky’s enjoyment of copying, Gogol challenges our assumption that Akaky himself, like his work, is mechanistic and emotionless. But there's a problem in this mundane fairy tale: Akaky's coat is falling apart. The fact that the watchman turns a blind eye to Akaky’s crime is representative of the Russian bureaucracy’s negligence of the rampant corruption within its own ranks. Lesson Summary 'The Overcoat' is a short story written by Nikolai Gogol in 1842. Gogol draws attention to how differently Akaky’s coworkers treat him when they hear about his new overcoat—indeed, the change in their behavior is ridiculously exaggerated. Everyone at work loves it so much that they even throw him a party. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of. His overcoat gets knocked to the floor, and no one notices when he leaves. His threadbare overcoat is often the butt of their jokes. Akaky’s poverty will even affect him after death, as he will have to be buried in the cheapest possible coffin. “Would not have made it through AP Literature without the printable PDFs. The tragic loss of his overcoat, then, once again exposes Akaky as a helpless, impoverished man. In this scene, the snuffbox with the faceless general may be an image of the Russian bureaucracy’s powerful influence on its citizens, as well as its essentially inhuman nature. The Important Person, while he feels guilty about Akaky’s death, only truly changes when he faces the clerk’s ghost. In both life and death, Akaky is barely noticed, and barely acknowledged by anyone (even, seemingly, the Narrator) as a fellow human being. The importance of basic material goods once again comes to the fore as Akaky succumbs to illness.

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