The Overcoat

Theme of the “Little Man” in Gogol’s The Overcoat and Diary of a Madman 12th Grade

Though rather simple in plot and structure, Gogol’s short stories carry deep moral messages, which are urgent beyond time and place. One of these is a theme of a little man, who is a poor person, is not respected by those with higher ranks, and is usually driven to despair by his life conditions. This is a socio-psychological type of a person often pitifully aware of his unimportance, but there often occurs a situation in which he dares a protest, which finally turns out to be fatal for him. As Emily Hopkins noticed (2011), this type of character functions as a contrast to and victim of an unjust system, which besides being unfair is lethal. In his series Petersburg’s Narratives, Gogol developed this theme by delving into the character of an ordinary clerk.

The hard school of life, which Gogol had gone through in his early career, trained him for creation of Nose, Diary of a Madman, Portrait, The Overcoat, and other narrations. Having moved to Saint Petersburg, Gogol was struck by deep social contradictions and tragic catastrophes. By his own experience, he got to know of a poor clerk’s life conditions, of the young artists' circle, and even of the need for a new overcoat. This very life experience helped Gogol to show vividly...

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