The Overcoat

Topics: The Overcoat, Clerks, Nikolai Gogol Pages: 31 (13604 words) Published: February 11, 2014
The Overcoat
By Nikolai Gogol
© 2002 by

In the department of. . . but I had better not mention in what department. There is nothing in the world more readily moved to wrath than a department, a regiment, a government office, and in fact any sort of official body. Nowadays every private individual considers all society insulted in his person. I have been told that very lately a petition was handed in from a police captain of what town I don’t recollect, and that in this petition he set forth clearly that the institutions of the State were in danger and that its sacred name was being taken in vain; and, in proof thereof, he appended to his petition an enormously long volume of some work of romance in which a police captain appeared on every tenth page, occasionally, indeed, in an intoxicated condition. And so, to avoid any unpleasantness, we had better call the department of which we are speaking a certain department.

And so, in a certain department there was a government clerk; a clerk of whom it cannot be said that he was very remarkable; he was short, somewhat pockmarked, with rather reddish hair and rather dim, bleary eyes, with a small bald patch on the top of his head, with wrinkles on both sides of his cheeks and the sort of complexion which is usually associated with hœmorrhoids. . . no help for that, it is the Petersburg climate. As for his grade in the service (for among us the grade is what I must be put first), he was what is called a perpetual titular counsellor, a class at which, as we all know, various writers who indulge in the praiseworthy habit of attacking those who cannot defend themselves jeer and jibe to their hearts’ content. This clerk’s surname was Bashmatchkin. From the very name it is clear that it must have been derived from a shoe (bashmak); but when and under what circumstances it was derived from a shoe, it is impossible to say. Both his father and his grandfather and even his brother-in-law, and all the Bashmatchkins without exception wore boots, which they simply resoled two or three times a year. His name was Akaky Akakyevitch. Perhaps it may strike the reader as a rather strange and farfetched name, but I can assure him that it was not farfetched at all, that the circumstances were such that it was quite out of the question to give him any other name. Akaky Akakyevitch was born toward nighfall, if my memory does not deceive me, on the twenty-third of March. His mother, the wife of a government clerk, a very good woman, made arrangements in due course to christen the child. She was still lying in bed, facing the door, while on her right hand stood the godfather, an excellent man called Ivan Ivanovitch Yeroshkin, one of the head clerks in the Senate, and the godmother, the wife of a police official, and a woman of rare qualities, Arina Semyonovna Byelobryushkov. Three names were offered to the happy mother for selection— Moky, Sossy,or the name of the martyr Hozdazat. “No,” thought the poor lady, “they are all such names!” To satisfy her, they opened the calendar at another place, and the names which turned up were: Trifily, Dula, Varahasy. “What an infliction!” said the mother. “What names —they all are! I really never heard such names. Varadat or Varuh would be “They turned over another page bad enough, but Trifily and Varahasy! and the names were: Pavsikahy and Vahtisy. “Well, I see,” said the mother, “it is clear that it is his fate. Since that is how it is, he had better be called after his father, his father is Akaky, let the son be Akaky, too. This was how he came to be Akaky Akakyevitch. The baby was christened and cried and made wry faces during the ceremony, as though he foresaw that he would be a titular counsellor. So that was how it all came to pass. We have recalled it here so that the reader may see for himself that it happened © 2002 By

quite inevitably and that to give him any other name was out of the question. No one has been...
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