The Overcoat Literary Elements

The Overcoat Literary Elements


Novel with ghosts

Setting and Context

St. Petersburg, late 19th century

Narrator and Point of View

We see the third-person narration here. At the same time, the author lets us discover the inner world of the main character, showing his as the narrator in such way.

Tone and Mood

Gogol writes his novel in calm, “measured” mood. Only at the end, after Akakiy’s loss of his overcoat, the atmosphere begins to be fussy in some way. Thus the author wants to show, that Akakiy’s life becomes meaningless without this overcoat, just the way it was before this purchase.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist of the story is Bashmatchkin and the antagonistic are those social events, conditions that had a place in the hero’s life: his poverty, those people who were more powerful than him and abused him etc.

Major Conflict

The main conflict in the story develops between Bashmatchkin and his mediocrity, ordinariness. And the protagonist is so weak that he cannot cope with difficulties, surmount his enemy.


The climax occurs when Bashmachkin loses his overcoat.


Gogol shows us so-called “little people”: people without any valuable goals, significant traits etc. And being a weak personality cannot foresee any good.


The author intentionally makes his main hero too primitive and “unintelligent” to show the small size of his value in this world and his unimportance. Such a person cannot achieve success.




Bashmachkin’s panic when entering into secular life

Gogol uses this method to highlight Akakiy’s panic in that situation: “Akakiy Akakievitch, having hung up his own cloak, entered the inner room. Before him all at once appeared lights, officials, pipes, and card-tables; and he was bewildered by the sound of rapid conversation rising from all the tables, and the noise of moving chairs.” The hero got used to the calm and quiet life, and here the atmosphere of holiday, idleness dreads him in some way.


Logically unacceptable becomes a fact that even having tried so hard to collect some money for his new overcoat, having thought of it so much and with such significance, Bashmachkin does not manage to keep it. And no matter how hard he tries he still is a “little man”.



Metonymy and Synecdoche

The author often uses these methods to highlight the particular meaning of different images or moods: “…how much inhumanity there is in a man.”, “…it was possible to read every letter, which his pen wrote.”, “…horse's muzzle was put on his shoulder…” etc.


Such personifications as: “…The frost…begins to give strong and barbed clicks on all noses…”, “…Money had to completely go away…” help Gogol to decorate the text, make it artistically accomplished.

This section is currently locked

Someone from the community is currently working feverishly to complete this section of the study guide. Don’t worry, it shouldn’t be long.