Akaky Akakievich and the Tragedy of The Overcoat
The hero of “The Overcoat”, Akaky Akakievich, engenders both hatred and pity from the reader. His meekness and his pathetic life deserve sympathy, while his utter detachment from his peers and his singular obsession with a coat are often despised. He is drastically different from any of his peers, but there is a certain purity in his way of life which the overcoat defiles. Akaky’s world is completely devoid of any excitement; his sole source of pleasure lies in his work. However, his career itself is excruciatingly mundane and only a man as simple as he could extract happiness from it. Akaky is a ghost in his world, and only his death leaves any impression. Temptation, in the form of a luxurious coat, is forced upon him and upsets his peaceful life. Akaky should not be hated for his disconnection from reality or for his symbolic marriage to an overcoat; rather he should be pitied for his terrible fate.
Akaky is doomed from birth. When his mother pages through the Russian Orthodox calendar for names for her son, each name carries the connotation of martyrdom. She realizes that he will be unable to avoid a similarly miserable fate, and so resignedly gives him the monotonous name of “Akaky, son of Akaky”. Nothing about him, in fact, is either notable or appealing. Described as short, pockmarked, balding and ruddy-faced, Akaky is the antithesis of attractive. A fly commands more attention than he does. His diminutive salary prevents him from affording anything but the poorest of clothing, but finer garments could scarcely improve his looks. Even the timing of his walks to work is cursed; he constantly finds himself the target of garbage thrown out of apartment windows and so is always covered in filth. His speech is so fragmented by pauses, prepositions and particles that is barely coherent. Fortune completely overlooks Akaky, and such tragic circumstances move the reader to pity.