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The Overcoattells the story of life and death of one Akaky Akakievich, a government official in a certain department. The first part of the story introduces us to the personality of Akaky and his poor living conditions. The job though satisfying doesn't earn enough to keep him well clothed and bred. He is extremely reserved and becomes a constant subject of ridicule. Gogol plants Akaky well in the reader’s hearts in this first part arousing their compassion. Akaky, after much labour and suffering, becomes a proud owner of an overcoat. And here ends the first part of the story.

In the second part of the story, the reader learns the misfortune of Akaky. He is robbed of his overcoat; his efforts at recovering his lost property are rendered futile. His disappointment over his loss and the exposure to ill weather in its absence sees him to an early grave. But here the story gets better, for Akaky comes back from the dead to seek justice and takes revenge from those who had failed to help him!

This little story tells many things: It exposes the povertystricken lives of middle class working people; it shows the uncompassionate and bullying nature of the humans; it brings to light the inefficiency and unjust and unsatisfactory conduct of government bureaucrats of Russia under the Imperial regime. Akaky’s ghost haunting the officials is kind of a hint that someday the tolerance for such governance might end in a catastrophe (as was seen years later).

Gogol is said to be a pioneer in realistic writing. His writing as is portrayed inThe Overcoatis touched on real characters and real themes that concern human society. Dostoevsky once said that “We all come from Gogol’s Overcoat” and this is a very good indication that how influential Gogol’s work had been on Russian literature.

There is an easy grace in his writing which makes it undemanding to read. It is one of the best attributes of his writing. His direct and at times sardonic writing is quite appealing. It is not right to draw comparisons between the literary masters especially from different literary traditions, but so far the writing is concerned, I couldn’t help comparing his writing with that of Charles Dickens and Oscar Wild.

Overall, I enjoyed this short work. Personally I cannot place Gogol in the same light with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but I do like his style. My first contact with Gogol, and certainly not my last.
This little book tells the story of Akakiy Akakievitch, a certain official in a certain department where nobody showed him any sign of respect. He was laughed at by his coworkers. That must be one of the worst thing that may happen to any human being: realizing that high school did not end (for a lot of people, it wasn't all flowers and rainbows). All the bullying, the bad jokes, the embarrassing moments that make you gently ask the ground to eat you alive, the psychological violence you cannot get rid of, all that, now... at your workplace? You have to love the irony.

The Overcoat is, well, a story about an overcoat. It seems to have more importance than Akakiy himself, the responsible guy with the unfortunate name. That is another thing... mothers, what the hell are you thinking when you give your children ridiculous names? Please, spare them a lot of trouble and save yourselves a lot of money in psychologists and start naming your kids properly. I don't know why they don't change their own name into some fruit, weird magicians, comic superheroes, cars, cardinal points or whatever they seem to love. Especially you, celebrity people who don't know I exist and won't read this in your entire life!
Okay. Rant officially over. (If you search for "Akakiy Akakievitch", you will understand. I had to do that because I wanted to know why the author spent several lines explaining how he got his name and yeah, I don't speak Russian.)

As I was saying, this book is about (view spoiler)

"The beauty of Kafka's and Gogol's private nightmares is that their central human characters belong to the same private fantastic world as the inhuman characters around them, but the central one tries to get out of that world, to cast off the mask, to transcend the cloak or the carapace."
And then there's this haunting quote, attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky: "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat'." (ETA: Even months later, every time I think about this story, that quote comes to mind.) So off I went to read Nicolai Gogol's short story.

Akaky Akakievich is an absurd, pathetic figure of a man. His name would translate as something very nondescript like "John Johnson," except you also have this deliberate allusion to "kaka" (or caca = feces) in his name; one review site suggested you think of him as Poopy McPooperson. He is a "titular councillor" (read: minor official) who in fact does nothing except act as a human photocopier, all day, every day, for very low pay. He even takes his copy work home with him in the evenings. His only joy in life is derived from his copy work. Even being asked to make the most minor changes to the original version throws him into a tizzy. His coworkers make fun of him, but other than a pitiful protest of "Leave me alone! Why do you insult me?," he quietly carries on.

Until one day, when he realizes that his overcoat has become so threadbare that it won't keep off the cold St. Petersburg winter. After a few skirmishes with his tailor about whether the old coat can be patched up or not, he caves and agrees to save up money for a new coat, which will cost like 20% of his annual wages. Gradually Akaky gets more and more excited about his new coat. And when he finally gets the finished overcoatlined with cat fur because marten fur is too expensive (sorry to my felineloving friends!)it causes a sensation in his workplace.

Of course, this being 19th century Russian literature, you know it's going to go south for poor Akaky. (view spoiler)