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Storytelling Style of N.V.Gogol in His Overcoat Short Story
In his “Overcoat” short story Nikolay Gogol is using a rather simple, informal style of storytelling. He is exaggerating his description of mundane events in the life of an ordinary official, who has nothing in his everyday life but the work he does. The style itself emphasized the ridiculousness of everything described in the story.
Akaky is an unremarkable person, who lives an unremarkable life. He has no other interests but the work he does; and even when he is coming home, he does exactly the same things, he performs during his work day. But even at work all he does is copy the documents, and he is painfully unable to perform any other duty: “No, give me rather something to copy” (Gogol 3). The only real emotion that lights up his grey and boring life is born when he orders a new overcoat to replace the old one.
Nikolay Gogol is describing all the events in a manner that shows the mundanity of life, presenting Akaky as just one of the great number of ordinary people who have nothing in their lives; who are trapped in the cells of their senseless existence, which has no meaning or purpose and leaves nothing behind when they perish.
However, in the manner, inherent to Gogol only, the author shifts the story to the supernatural rebirth of the restless spirit, avenging the loss of his overcoat and the refusal to help him get it back. And as Vladimir Nabokov describes it, by doing so, “he really let himself go and pottered on the brink of his private abyss” (54).
This mixture of casual storytelling style along with the introduction of mysterious events makes up an exhorting and a bit superstitious story acute in every century or age.
Gogol, Nikolai. The Overcoat. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.
Nabokov, Vladimir, and Fredson Bowers. Lectures on Literature. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.