Dead Souls Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Dead Souls Symbols, Allegory and Motifs


The symbol of the road is carried through the whole poem. The road appears in its direct, real meaning. Here are the byways where Chichikov’s chaise travels. The chaise is nothing but the entire Russ, it gets bumps, dust, dirt. Vast expanses of Russia, is not difficult to get lost here.

Chichikov’s journey is ruled by not only a driver, but also by a case (for example, a trip to Korobochka). If we stick to the analogy chaise – Russia, it turns out that the Russian way is impossible without random turns of fate. The road is a symbol by which Russia flies among other cities and states. Its ways are inscrutable, the paths are curved, dull, narrow, impassable, they bring away from the main road, but still it rushes inspired by God towards well-being and perfection. Road in the poem is something more than a display of Chichikov’s everyday way, it is a display of life.

Dead souls

The symbolism of the poem has already incorporated in the title. If you think about the meaning, discrepancy becomes apparent - because the soul is immortal in itself. In tsarist Russia, serfs were called the souls, and the word dead meant that people, who are officially on their outstanding securities of living, actually had gone to another world. The protagonist, Chichikov using for his own purpose the negligence error of bureaucratic machine, goes through towns and villages, and buys “dead souls" for a song. The name of the poem reflects the appalling cynicism, when human life becomes a bargaining chip, like a thing that can be easily bought and sold.


The motif of the court is a cross-cutting topic in the poem. It is set at the beginning of the poem by an image of a prosecutor. Then Korobochka asks Chichikov a piece of stamped paper "to request a file to a court". Later this motive arises in Nozdryov’s character. Coming there, a captain tells him that a landowner “is on trial before the end of the solution" in one case. Then the motive of the court arises when Chichikov looks through the list of Plushkin’s runaway souls. Here the author and Chichikov’s voice are practically merged. Gogol deploys picture of a Plushkin’s fate, a scribe Popov who lives in a prison until the court "makes" his case. The motive of the court is also connected with the image of Chichikov, who managed to dodge from under the Criminal Court after an argument and denunciation of a state councilor. Chichikov turns out to be a judge, one of his guises in finale is a planted official from the Office of the General Governor for work on a secret investigation. And in a sense, the hero does produce a secret investigation of ethical state of a provincial town, and entire Russia. Development of this motif ends on a high note - the death of a prosecutor. Here Gogol’s symbolism is obvious. Court of men does not mean anything in life, nay, those, who condemns others, are more sinful. But there is the highest, God's judgment, which the author calls his heroes to remember of.

Ball, carnival, fair

Another motif that resonates in the work - it is the motive of the ball, carnival, fair. Carnival-farcical atmosphere matches a very plot-compositional structure of the poem, the movement of the poem appears in emptiness and rapidly and quickly develops, and it becomes a whirlwind of misunderstandings and brings everything to grow to enormous size with a comic dance with Chichikov in the center. Let notice here the motive of the ball and the motive of the fair associated with the image of Nozdryov. Fair, in turn, is associated with Shrovetide. In the poem there are many attributes of the carnival - the topic of clowns, scarecrows on long poles in the garden of Korobochka, pancakes, which she treated Chichikov with.


Korobochka’s room is hung with paintings of some birds; the morning after waking up Chichikov is welcomed by a turkey-cock; all landowner’s narrow courtyard is filled with birds; there are a lot of turkeys and chickens there; fruit trees in the garden are covered with nets for protection against magpies and sparrows that were transferred from one place to another in whole groups.

The motif of birds is usually associated with the image of Korobochka, but let’s try to consider this motif in a broader perspective. Bird, that has left the nest, is similar to a man in the Bible who has left his place. That man in the poem is Chichikov who does not have his own home and family. There gradually a motif of homelessness, insecurity in life appears. Moving from one place to another, Gogol's hero travels across Russia, driven by the dream of wealth and comfort. Meanness and the vanity of human endeavors in the poem are opposed to the natural life of nature. Thus, the bird motif is wrapped with a topic of pettiness and vanity of human life, the topic of paganism, retreat from Christian precepts and ideals. This topic of the poem is connected, first of all, with the image of Chichikov, whose main concern is to achieve material well-being and comfort.

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