The story of Akakiy Akakievitch Bashmachkin starts on the telling of his birthday and how none of the names proposed to her mother for a newly-born comes with her satisfaction, and she decides to name him in honour of his father. Then the story goes on his work as a titular counselor, which is the lowest civil rank in tsarist Russia.
Many of young clerks make fun of Akakiy Akakievitch, nudge him constantly and do everything to hurt or insult Bashmachkin, who by-turn does nothing but endures it silently. Only when teasing becomes unbearable he speaks in a pitiful voice and asks to live him alone. His duties at work stand in copying the documents, and his work Bashmachkin does with a great love and care. He waits with awe for the next day, and when going to bed thinks of what the next day will bring him to copy.
But his regular life is disturbed by one unforeseen event. One morning he finds out that his overcoat is good for nothing. Thanks to St. Petersburg’s frosts its back and shoulders have been worn-out into holes. He carries it to the tailor, who by-turn says that nothing could be done and a new overcoat should be sewed. Bashmachkin is rather shocked by the price the tailor announced, by he sees that he could not make without an overcoat, so he decides to save his money by reducing some of his expenses. Since now Akakiy Akakievitch does not drink tea in the evenings, does not light the candles, steps on his toes in order not to use up his soles by rubbing, and gives his clothes to the laundress not so often. All these precautions are done in order to save at least forty rubles. The entire sum he needs accounts eighty rubles. The half of this sum Bashmachkin has, as has a very good habit of putting a groshen of every ruble he spends into a small box.
His life changes completely, but he does not complain, he is rather happy as the dream of a new overcoat gives him strength to stand all the difficulties. Every month he visits the tailor – Petrovich – to talk about an overcoat. An expected rewarding at work turns out to be for twenty rubles more and Bashmachkin is happy to come to the tailor. Before the winter frosts start his coat is ready, and when an occasion comes he starts for the department in his new overcoat. The day Bashmachkin puts on his new overcoat becomes his own triumph. He is overfilled with high-spirited emotions.
In the department this event cannot be left unnoticed; everyone praises the overcoat and demands from Bashmachkin to wet the bargain in the evening. Embarrassed Akakiy is saved by some clerk, who has invited everyone for a drink on the occasion of his birthday. In the evening Akakiy Akakievitch being very happy and elated starts for the birthday party he is invited to. Though it is rather far it does not stop him.
Akakiy has a rather pleasant evening, the one he has never experienced before, he tastes champagne, and gladly watches the others playing cards. When it is late he starts for home, as it is time he usually goes to bed. Streets leading to his home become rather darker and with fewer passers-by. Involuntary fear seizes him. In the middle of a large empty street some people with moustache stop him and take away his new overcoat.
Here start Bashmachkin’s misadventures. The feelings of despair overfill him, and the next day is the only day in his life when he is absent at work. He desperately is looking for help in district chief, but finds none. The next day when he comes to work in his old worn-out overcoat he gets some compassion from some of his staff and an advice to turn to a certain prominent personage. But unfortunately this attempt is crowned with no success.
The next few days, which are the last of his life, Bashmachkin spends in complete unconsciousness and delirium. Then he dies. The news of his death comes to the department only on the fourth day after the funeral.
Soon a rumor that a dead man is appearing at nights on the Kalinkin Bridge is spread over St. Petersburg. This dead man walks in the night and takes off the overcoats of the passes-by. Someone recognizes Akakiy Akakievitch. Taken steps by the police to catch the dead have no results.
A certain prominent personage, who has refused Bashmachkin to help, when gets to know of his death, endures pangs of conscience, as compassion is not alien to him. In order to get distracted from sad thoughts he goes to the party of some of his friend, and after wants to go not home but to a lady he has relationship with. On his way to Karolina Ivanovna (it’s her name) he feels suddenly that somebody grasps his collar and takes off his overcoat. Terrified he recognizes Akakiy Akakievitch. Pale and scared to death the prominent personage returns home, and since after does not show strictness towards his subordinate or visitors.
The appearance of the dead man since then stops completely. Just one more time a ghost met by some watchman, but he is much taller and has large moustache.