The Language of The Government Inspector
Nikolay Gogol’s The Government Inspector does not simply exist to please the audience; it is a satire that deeply criticizes the corruption of the Russian government and the ugliness of human nature. A variety of techniques in the characters’ languages contribute to the success of this play, including different speaking styles, irony, exaggeration, asides and symbolism. These linguistic techniques and dramatic devices Gogol uses allow him to criticize various aspects of the Russian society in such a way that avoids punishment and censure from the Russian leaders. The different speaking styles between Khlestakov and other townspeople reveal the disparity between the higher and the lower class. Most of the sentences spoken by the townspeople are short and direct. For example, Dobchinsky often just repeats Bobchinsky without adding anything new. As soon as Dobchinsky believes that Khlestakov is the inspector after a short meet in the inn, Bobchinsky affirms his thought immediately without his own analysis: “Oh yes it is! Oh yes, it must be him” (228). In contrary, Khlestakov’s sentences are more complicated. These fancy speeches separate him from townspeople and allow them to believe his fake status—an official from St. Petersburg. Because the inspector whom Khlestakov pretends to be should speak complicated and flowery sentences. He describes his experience abroad in such a way: “the soup is brought in special tureens on a steamer from Paris. And the aroma when you lift the lid—well, nothing can compare with it!” (259). Compared to other people’s unpolished and shallow language, Khlestakov’s frequent vivid depiction of the food can always depict the lifestyle of the higher classes. Khlestakov also uses “Paris”, a metropolis, to further demonstrate his fake social status because it shows that he has been to such a big city. Even Khlestakov may have never tasted this kind of soup before, the meticulous description and reasonable explanation lend credence to his story. One can imagine the enjoyment of the soup from Khlestakov’s speech. From the strong contrast between the speaking styles, we can conclude that the social ranking has had a significant influence on people’s judgment and feelings. The short and direct sentences from the town people also illustrate that people who belong to lower class always blindly admire those from a higher class. For example, when Anna knows...
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