Diary of a Madman Themes

Diary of a Madman Themes

Social Classes

Diary of a Madman explores the restrictive social classes in St. Petersburg, Russia. Aksenty often compares his social rank to that of the people around him. Aksenty is proud of his position and considers himself equal to the other titular councilors he works with, though he does not like his coworkers. Aksenty looks up to his boss, the director. Aksenty oftn calls the director flattering names, such as “Your Excellency”, not of an effort to kiss up to him, but of genuine respect and reverence. Aksenty considers the director a “superior” man, which implies that one’s rank is directly connected with one’s worth. Aksenty considers the director very intelligent and wishes to begin a conversation with him, but is too intimidated to do so. Aksenty is infatuated with the director’s daughter, Sophie. When he imagines that he is reading letters written by Sophie’s dog, Medji, the dog criticizes Aksenty, calling him ugly and saying he has hair like straw. These reveal the Aksenty feels insecure because he recognizes that he is from a lower class than Sophie, and is therefore inferior to her. Then Aksenty imagines that Sophie is being courted by a kammerjunker named Teplov. (The relationship between Sophie and Teplov may be true, but the reader is not entirely sure because our narrator is slipping into madness, which makes him unreliable.) A kammerjunker is a servant to a royal family. It is a prestigious position, definitely higher class than a civil servant. Aksenty knows that he cannot compete with Teplov, which helps to push Aksenty into madness. He begins to imagine that he is the King of Spain – a position that is not only higher than a kammerjunker, but puts Teplov in a position of servitude towards Aksenty. Of course, Aksenty is not a king, he is mad. He is brought to an insane asylum and treated (more like beaten) until he begins to realize that he is not a king. This represents the impossibility of rising through the classes.

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