Gogol, "The Overcoat": an analysis of the work
The well-known phrase of the French critic E. Vogués that a whole galaxy of writers grew out of Gogol's "The Overcoat" is quite true. The image of the "little man", which became popular thanks to Charlie Chaplin, in a sense, too, from there, from her. In the thirties and forties, descriptions of the great feats of prominent personalities were not so much boring to the reader, but already wanted something different, unusual. At this time, and wrote Nikolai Gogol "The Overcoat". The analysis of this work was carried out repeatedly, both before the revolution and after it. It was found that dreams of universal equality and fraternity, and even calls for the overthrow of the autocracy. Today, having re-read the story through the eyes of a contemporary, we can safely say that there is nothing of this there.
The main character, A. A. Bashmachkin
To establish oneself in the opinion that not only revolutionary motives are absent in the story, but also a social idea in general, it is enough to understand who the “Overcoat” wrote to N. V. Gogol.The analysis of the personality of the main character leads to the search for modern analogies. The notorious “middle managers” come to mind, contemptuously also called “office plankton,” performing routine assignments. Workers, according to one literary character, are divided into two main categories: the majority are not capable of anything, and only a few can do almost everything. Judging by the description of Akaky Akakiyevich and his relationship with the team, he does not belong to the omnipotent minority. But Gogol would not be himself if he had not spotted certain merits in him, about which he also writes with a fair amount of irony. Bashmachkin, a typical “eternal titular” (such in the Soviet Army was called the fifteen-year-old captains, according to the term of service in the junior officer's rank), loves his work, he is diligent and subdued to humility. At the jokes of his comrades, sometimes evil, he reacts gently and peacefully. He has no friends, in addition to beautiful calligraphic letters, and he does not need him.
How poor was a titular adviser?
In order to assess the financial position of Bashmachkin, the modern reader needs to delve into the literature and understand what and how much it cost then.This exercise requires hard work and patience. The prices for many things were very different, as well as the assortment of the modern supermarket differs from the selection of goods in the shops and stores of the era in which Gogol “The Overcoat” wrote. Analysis of purchasing power can be made approximately.
Compare the prices of the middle of the XIX century with today is absolutely impossible. Now there are many products that do not fit into the then consumer basket (mobile phones, computers, etc.). In addition, the choice of clothes has become very wide (from cheap consumer goods, sewed by our Chinese friends, to the offers of super-prestigious boutiques). Comparison is more expedient to make with salaries in the relatively recent Soviet past.
The calculation of the financial capacity of the protagonist
The hero's salary is known - 800 rubles per year. By then the standards are not so little, you will not die of hunger. Judging by indirect signs and on the basis of the text of the story, it can be concluded that the scale of prices roughly corresponded to the capabilities of an ordinary engineer of the late Soviet era (70s or 80s), who received 120 rubles of salary.It is also known how much the new overcoat cost Akaky Akakiyevich. The story was written in 1842, there was no shortage of products and queues, but acquaintances with the right people already had a meaning. A certain Petrovich, a tailor, is ready to get the job done for only 80. For such money, it was impossible to buy a decent coat in the USSR, and in order to collect it for a new thing, an ordinary worker needed to save a few months.
So Akaky Akakievich cut his budget to make a new overcoat for himself. His problems were purely economic in nature, and, in general, were completely solvable.
The plot of Gogol was inspired by a story about an equally poor and mediocre official who had long saved his gun and lost it on his first hunt. It was necessary to be a genius in order to see the plot of the future work in such an amusing joke and to develop it to the tragicomedy, which the story “The Overcoat” is justly considered. Its main characters are also officials, and for the most part they receive as much as Bashmachkin, or more, but not by much. Seeing the new thing, they jokingly demand "to inject" (today they often use the verbs "to wash" or "put down").Colleagues know that Bashmachkin has no money for excesses, and if they did, then obviously he would not be in a hurry to part with them either - for many years they had studied his character. Help came from the assistant chief officer (judging by the name of the position, also not a great rich man), who offers treats and invites you to visit. After the banquet of Akaky Akakiyevich, they robbed and undressed, taking away a new overcoat. The summary of the scene of a friendly binge clearly shows how much the ambitious official soared in spirit, having bought, in general, an ordinary thing. He even shows interest in a certain lady, however, not for long.
And then such a collapse.
Image of the chief
Of course, Nikolai Vasilyevich tells us not just a story about how an unknown official found his coat and lost it. The story, like all outstanding literary works, about relationships between people. Man is known by gaining power. Some only need to get a job ...
So the new chief, who recently took office, is drawn in front of a friend, slaying Akaky Akakiyevich on the far-fetched pretext of mistreatment, and in general, the highest instances of concern over such a minor issue as some kind of overcoat.The summary of the wrathful tirade of a significant person (as it is designated by the author) comes down to a reminder of who Bashmachkin is talking to, who he is facing, and the rhetorical question of how he dares. At the same time, the general has his own problems, he has been appointed recently, and he doesn’t know how to behave at all, that's why he lets fear on everyone. In his heart, he was a kind, decent, good companion and even intelligent (in many ways).
Having received such an affront, the poor official came home, fell ill, and he died, it is unclear whether from a cold or because of severe stress.
What the author wanted to say
The tragic finale is also characteristic of other Russian writers of the 19th and 20th centuries who “grew up” from the same outerwear. A.P. Chekhov (“The Death of a Clerk”) also “kills” (only without a subsequent mystic) his main character, like N. V. Gogol (“The Overcoat”). The analysis of these two works, their comparison suggests an idea of the spiritual kinship of the masters of the pen and their general rejection of the fear of anyone else. The declaration of inner freedom became the main leitmotif of both works, created on the basis of antithesis.The classics seem to tell us: “Do not be you Akakyami Akakievich! Live safely, do not be afraid of anything! All problems are solvable! ”.
How strange that over the past decades and centuries only a few have taken this call to heart.