The Overcoat

The Overcoat: Symbolism in “The Overcoat”

In his short tale “The Overcoat,” Nikolai Gogol has unfolded tragedies as well as satirical jokes by imagining a wide range of roles an overcoat can fulfill within an oppressive, bureaucratic, and heavily materialistic society. Without loss of humor, he has shown his reader different perceptions of an overcoat as a simple necessity for decent life, an object beyond admiration, a tenuous tie between a man and his “brother” (Gogol, 29), and perhaps worst of all, a cause for the rage of ghosts. Along those playful exaggerations, however, Gogol also turns the overcoat into a motif that expresses his serious concerns for the well being of humanity, and eventually such concerns also distinguish themselves from all comedies within his tale.

To set the tragic tone of the story, Gogol appears to his reader as an omniscient and anonymous third person narrator who observes the parallels between Akaky Akakievich, an impoverished clerk, and his worn-out overcoat, which often represents the image of himself within society. The narrator notices Akaky’s overcoat is mocked by others as it is becoming “threadbare” (Gogol, 5), and to prevent it from falling apart, Akaky has to use its collar to patch all other damages on it. In “The Overcoat”,...

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