The story is in three parts:
On the 25th of March, the barber Ivan Yakovlevich finds a nose in his bread during breakfast. With horror he recognizes this nose as that of one of his regular customers, Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov (known as 'Major Kovalyov'). He tries to get rid of it by throwing it in the Neva River, but he is caught by a police officer.
At the onset of “The Nose,” Major Kovalyov awakens to discover that his nose is missing, leaving a smooth, flat patch of skin in its place. His nose is already pretending to be a human being. He finds and confronts it in the Kazan Cathedral, but from its clothing it is apparent that the nose has acquired a higher rank in the civil service than he, and it refuses to return to his face. Kovalyov visits the newspaper office to place an ad about the loss of his nose, but is refused.
Kovalyov returns to his flat, where the police officer who caught Ivan finds him and returns the nose (which he caught at a coach station, trying to flee the city). Kovalyov's joy is cut short when he finds that he is unable to re-attach the nose, even with the help of the doctor. The next day, Kovalyov writes a letter to Madam Podtochina Grigorievna, a woman who wants him to marry her daughter, and accuses her of stealing his nose; he believes that she has placed a curse on him for his fickleness toward her daughter. He writes to ask her to undo the spell, but she misinterprets the letter as a proposal to her daughter. Her reply convinces him that she is innocent. In the city, rumours of the nose's activities have spread, and crowds gather in search of it.
On the 7th of April, Kovalyov wakes up with his nose reattached. He is carefully shaved by the barber and happily promenades about the city to show off his nose.