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"Diary of a Madman" is a short story written by the Russian author Nikolai Gogol in 1835.

It was published in the collection Arabesques. The story dramatizes the lowlevel clerk Poprishchin's gradual descent into madness and eventual confinement in an asylum. It can be seen as a parable for the fate of the faceless Russian everyman in the confusing age of modernity. Gogol's story was based by a large number of newspaper articles published in the newspaper The Northern Bee about the inmates of insane asylums. The overwhelming majority of inmates institutionalized in asylums were civil servants who either suffered from an inflated sense of pride or a crippling bout of timidness. In fact, one article focused on an inmate who added the phrase "King of France and Navarre" to his passport.[1] Contents [hide] 1 Plot Summary 2 Biography 3 Themes 3.1 Alienation in Society 3.2 Status and Class Anxiety 3.3 Reason and Madness 3.4 Escapism 3.5 Satire 4 Style and Literary Devices 4.1 Point of View 4.2 Tone 4.3 Juxtaposition 4.4 Synecdoche 5 Analysis and Criticism 5.1 Gogol's Nonsense 5.2 Grotesque

5.3 The Conflict Between Center and Periphery: The Blurring of National and Cultural Identity 5.4 Psychoanalysis and Sexual Frustration 5.5 Schizophrenia 6 Relation to Other Gogol Works 6.1 "The Nose" 6.2 Dead Souls 7 Influence 8 Fun 8.1 Short Film 8.2 Folk Song 9 References Plot Summary

Poprishchin by Ilya Repin The central character of the story is the middle-aged man Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin who works for the central government and has the meaningless occupation of sharpening pens for his director. He notes that sometimes he sees and hears unusual things, such as a dog named Medji who can talk, but rationalizes these experiences with his own examples, such as other animals that have been proven to talk. Poprishchin is berated by his section chief and criticized for getting older and not making anything of himself. He longs to be noticed by his boss's daughter Sophie, but their interactions are never substantial. Poprishchin fantasizes about correspondences two dogs have written to each other, and seeks to obtain these letters and question the dogs. He examines these letters and convinces himself of their authenticity due to elements of dogginess and an uneven style which shows that they weren't written by a man. During this investigation of Sophie's dog, Poprishchin discovers much to his that Sophie is engaged to a kammerjunker.

The second half of the work chronicles the worsening of Poprishchin's madness. In a journal entry dated as The Year 2000, 43rd of April, Poprishchin learns that he has been made the king of Spain. He stops going to work and begins to sign documents as Ferdinand VIII. He secretly walks around the Nevsky Prospect without revealing his position, and decides to make a royal uniform out of pieces of an overcoat so that the common people will recognize him. He waits for Spanish deputies to arrive, and eventually believes himself to be in Spain, which he learns is the same nation as China. This trip is his imagination of an actual trip to an insane asylum, where he is shaved and beaten. The story ends in a nonsensical plea to his mother to save your poor son and pity your sick child while subjected to brutal treatments in the asylum. Biography

Nikolai Gogol Nikolai Gogol was born in 1809 in present-day Ukraine and as a youth attended a provincial school on a scholarship. Delaying his entry into the civil service, Gogol turned to literature but his works were not well received. He worked in many government departments, and at one point had a job sharpening pens for his director.[2] While working, Gogol kept writing on the side and in 1831 published the short story collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka. The collection was praised for its depiction of the folk life of his home region and brought him to the attention of Alexander Pushkin. In 1835, he published many short stories including The Nose and The Diary of a Madman, and he only decided on a purely literary career after the success of his polarizing play The Inspector General, which aroused the ire of many bureaucrats. Throughout the rest of his life, Gogol traveled extensively and was convince that travel was good for his health. While in Vienna he published his story The Overcoat and while in Italy he completed his master work Dead Souls, a novel which exposed the corruption of provincial Russia through a man who cheats the taxation system and buys dead serfs to collect loans. Dead Souls was supposed to be the first volume in a trilogy, but he accidentally burned his manuscripts for the second volume. Obsessed with his health and spirituality, Gogol made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1848. Suffering from a mental illness, he died in 1852.[3] Themes

Rogue Ensemble's The Gogol Project at Bootleg Theatre Alienation in Society The story dramatizes Poprishchin's gradual alienation from the rest of humanity as he participates in a dehumanizing bureaucracy, which defines him by the role he serves and not based on his individual identity. Poprishchin is conditioned by society to view other people through a divisive lens that separates the people he meets into strictly defined social groupings that cannot be crossed. For example, he dismisses "those vile artisans [who] produce so much soot and smoke in their workshops that it's decidedly impossible for a gentleman to walk," but remains convinced of the inherent superiority of the upper class when he blindly praises the intelligence of the director for asking the simple question "How is it outside?" to which Poprishchin effusively replies "such learning as our kind can't even come close to." Poprishchin's alienated status in society prevents any communication between social classes as he tries to make witty conversation with his boss, but remains physically unable as his "tongue wouldn't obey" leaving him only able to make trivial comments. Ultimately, Poprishchin completely withdraws from society as he creates his own private reality, but ironically even this vision of the world is domesticated by society when he is thrown into an insane asylum. Status and Class Anxiety The structure of the story suggests that Poprishchin's acute fixation on class differences is the direct cause of his mental breakdown. Critic D.S. Mirsky uses the Russian word "poshlost" (best translated as "self-satisfied inferiority") to characterize the specific type of status anxiety that is common to many of Gogol's protagonists. Mirsky uses the term to capture the uniquely pathetic psyche of these figures who have been conditioned by society to believe their inherent inferiority to the upper class, while simultaneously agonizing over small details (such as buying the proper coat) that they think might potentially improve their social standing. [4] In other words, society places Gogol's characters in a completely fixed and immovable position, but also leaves them with an unquenchable desire to change their social position. In Poprishchin's case he viciously criticizes people who are lower on the social ladder than him, but fixates on external status signs such as uniforms, clothing, and the general's ribbon. Gogol satirizes how society values the most superficial aspects of appearance in his story "The Nose" in which a minor official agonizes over finding his missing nose, which he believes is critical to his social standing.

This story illustrates how superficial facets of urban life acquire an inordinate importance that can literally ruin a person. Poprishchin's anxiety over his unchangeable social standing leads to his mental breakdown as he begins to talk about the Spanish throne immediately after he realizes Sophie is unattainable. Poprishchin's only avenue for advancement lies in creating his own separate reality. However, Gogol crown's the story's irony by showing how even Poprishchin's fantasy world is conditioned by his status anxiety. Poprishchin imagines being a king who stands at the top of the social hierarchy rather than fantasizing about living in some sort of idyllic existence separate from city life in which his happiness is defined on his own terms rather than the standards that society imposes. Reason and Madness Poprishchin obsesses over finding facts and evidence to corroborate his feelings, which highlights Gogol's powerful technique to chart Poprishchin's descent into madness through logically sound and reasonable narratives. In other words, Poprishchin tries to use logic to explain his own madness. For example, he offers sensible analysis while discussing the letters of the dogs, commenting on the "extremely uneven style" and questioning "how can one fill letters with such silliness," determining that no gentleman could have written them. In some ways, Poprishchin becomes more logical as his mind deteriorates, essentially making madness reasonable in Gogol's story. By equating madness with reason, Gogol creates a distorted world that undermines any potentially stable conception of logic in reality. In fact, the contradictions of Poprishchin's worldview define the central theme of Gogol's story because they have a leveling effect that reduces all things to a plane of equal importance, which suggests that the apparent logic used to organize society is just as arbitrary and unreasonable as the narrator's crazy perspective. Escapism Gogol's story dramatizes the necessity of escapism for the modern man trapped bleak, bureaucratic world. The major turn in "The Diary of a Madman" occurs when Poprishchin learns that Sophie has married someone else, which pushes him to embrace completely his wildest escapist fantasies. While before his fantasies had some correlation to his everyday existence (i. e. Poprishchin imagined marrying an upper class girl), after this final disappointment Poprishchin indulges in the most extreme incarnations of his delusions. The strict hierarchy in society forces alienated members into escapist tendencies. Initially his fantasy takes the form of ruling another country, which changes both his social position and national identity, but the story ends when he hopes to find a way out and asks "give me a troika of steeds swift as the wind! Take the reins, my driver, ring out, my bells, soar aloft,

steeds, and carry me out of this world!" He wants to simultaneously wants to leave the country, but also to return to "Russian huts" and his mother's bosom. Satire Satire is a critical aspect of Gogol's oeuvre, which is applied equally towards all subjects from the hypocrisies of society to the neuroses of his protagonists. Gogol never lets the reader fully sympathize with Poprishchin by comically undercutting his most emotionally powerful moments with nonsense. For example, after Poprishchin calls out "Dear Mother! pity your sick child!" at the end of the story, Gogol deflates the emotional climax by concluding Poprishchin's speech with the nonsensical query, "And do you know that the Dey of Algiers has a bump just under his nose?" Gogol never allows the moment to become fully tragic, making the reader contend with the story's double perception. Donald Fanger describes how Gogol's satire becomes so aggressive that it extends beyond the usual targets to ridicule, "the great majority of the characters who appear in it - not for particular failings but for a radical cretinism ("insignificance") whose source is in the text's source and not in society or nature."[5] Fanger goes on to claim that not satire itself but "the satirist's stance and the satirist's quasi magical belief in the power of words" becomes the defining aspect of Gogol's fictional world. Style and Literary Devices

Illustration by Milton Glaser for "Diary of a Madman" (Olivetti, 1987) Point of View "The Diary of a Madman" is the only work Gogol wrote in the first person, which emphasizes Gogol's desire to have his reader experience Poprishchin's mental disintegration firsthand, without the mitigating influence of an external narrator. This format allows the reader to see the mental breakdown step by step rather than viewing it from the outside. The story's narrative landscape is completely controlled by the narrator's schizophrenic voice, which fully immerses the reader in all of the contradictions of his distorted vision. Tone Gogol has Poprishchin use a matter of fact tone to emphasize the disparity between the absurd content of his story and the banality of his descriptions. Poprishchin's wild tone is Gogol's primary tool for conveying both the story's irony and comedy,

since it forces the reader to evaluate the objective reality with Poprishchin's vision. The narrator treats fantastic happenings as everyday occurrences as he is hardly phased by talking dogs or the prospect of noses living on the moon. The familiarity with which he discusses fantastic subject matters emphasizes his estrangement from social reality. Juxtaposition Juxtaposition is Gogol's definitive method for presenting his story's inherently distorted world. The story juxtaposes the fantastic with the mundane, the significant with the irrelevant, and most importantly Poprishchin's reality with society's stringent world. By arbitrarily shifting between seemingly disparate subjects, Gogol's juxtaposition dramatizes the contradictions that define Poprishchin's vision of reality. The critic John Kopper describes how the unexpected shifts in Gogol's narratives from one thematic plane to another is exploited to create a natural tension that "no longer stands apart from the devises of narrative, but exerts a gravitational effect upon them."[6] In other words, the fantastic elements of Gogol's fiction exert a distorting interpretive pressure on all aspects of the story that prevents the reader from understanding even a seemingly simple passage in a straightforward way. In "The Diary of a Madman", the reader sometimes questions the most seemingly innocuous passages the most vigorously. Critic Victor Erlich asserts that the reader cannot have any simple, sustained emotional response to the ending of Gogol's story, explaining how Gogol's juxtaposition makes the reader have a contradictory and complicated response to all of its elements.[7] Gogol's story also features stylistic juxtaposition as many long and grandiose sentences deflate into anticlimactic conclusions and elevated language is used to describe trivial subject matters. Victor Erlich stresses the disorienting force of this juxtaposition at the end of "The Diary of a Madman" when he writes, Toward the end of the story, the reader is jolted by two successive shifts of emotional perspective. For pages, he s treated to a thoroughly unemotional, or if one will, inhuman exploitation of insanity as a source of morbidly comic effects by means of a deft impersonation of mental disarray. Finally, contrived show breaks through, so as to allow, indeed impel, the reader at long last to register the hitherto frustrated human response - to pity, to relate, to vibrate in unison. Yet Gogol would not allow his audience to indulge its humanity for too long. As the crescendo of anguish reaches an almost hysterical pitch, the last-minute empathy is subverted by a sudden lapse into bathos. It is as if Gogol's art could not sustain empathy of involvement, as if these emotions became literally unbearable to hum as they escalated into hysteria, and thus had to be resolved back into verbal clowning, to be undercut by the burlesque.[8]

Synecdoche Gogol makes frequent use of synecdoche by describing isolated body parts removed from their larger whole to emphasize Poprishchin's alienation and the literal dissembling of his psyche. Synecdoche dehumanizes other figures in the city by reducing them to physical parts and Poprishchin's perception becomes increasingly fragmented as he experiences grotesque parts separated from the logical context necessary to make sense of them. For instance, he discusses how people can't see their noses because they live on the moon, and he refers to his boss as "an ordinary doornail, a simple doornail, nothing more. The kind used in doors," emphasizing his lack of agency and discernible human identity. Gogol effectively uses this literary technique to create the stifling atmosphere of his fictional world that reduces all of the characters involved in bureaucracy and urban society to seeming automatons. Analysis and Criticism

Gogol's Nonsense Many critics are interested in Gogol's excessive use of nonsense in his fiction. One section of his story "The Nose" famously begins, "Perfect nonsense goes on in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all." Critic Gary Morson discusses how Gogol luxuriates in the nonsensical details of his fiction, deliberately denying the reader any logical explanation.[9] The intrusion of nonsense on reality disrupts any ability to make a coherent picture of the story's fictional world and rejects any systemization of human experience. Nonsense often interrupts the narrative to prevent the reader from sharing any complete emotional empathy with a character. Gogol does not attempt to justify his nonsense, but simply makes one experience it. Critic Susanne Fusso claims that the nonsensical elements of the story are meant to portray Poprishchin as the parody of a historian.[10] Poprishchin constantly searches for facts to verify his beliefs leading him to create imaginary documents (such as the letters written by the dogs) to justify his decisions. Poprishchin humorously tries to understand his world through logical investigations like a historian would undertake, but ironically the story undercuts any notion of objective history when Poprishchin tries to write himself into history as Ferdinand VIII. Moreover, Fusso highlights the singular objective reality represented by history and society with the subjective account of experience represented through art.

Grotesque Critic Victor Erlich wrote an essay about "The Grotesque Imagination" that defines Gogol's fictional universe.[11] This grotesque world wreaks havoc on normal distinctions and is characterized by confusion over things that are simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar. Erlich claims the grotesque effect "occurs when what seemed familiar and natural suddenly turned out to be strange and ominous", when an object blurs the boundary between human and inhuman, and when part of an object becomes out of balance or out of proportion. Gogol's protagonists fixate on the grotesque, out-of-place aspects of their environment, which cannot be changed. For example, Poprishchin dislikes his boss's face, which "bears a slight resemblance to a druggist's bottle, with a tuft of hair curled into a forelock sticking up, smeared with some pomade." Not only is Poprishchin's grotesque perception of reality disjointed, but this distortion actively pains him. The claim that Gogol's fictional world is essentially grotesque is best reinforced with a quote from another Gogol earlier story titled "Nevsky Prospect" that reads, "It had seemed to him as though some demon had crumbled the whole world into bits and mixed all these bits indiscriminately together." [12] The distorted narrative world appears to be a collection of disproportional parts that have been randomly (and perhaps maliciously) united together to form an threatening and incomprehensible whole. The Conflict Between Center and Periphery: The Blurring of National and Cultural Identity "The Diary of a Madman" conveys both the individual and national tension between the center and periphery that haunts the Russian identity. Poprishchin lives in the center of Russian life in the city, but perpetually stands on that culture's peripheries as a clerk. He is circumscribed by the suffocating standards and definitions imposed on him by society, so he reacts by creating his own reality in which he stands at the center of all activity as represented by Spain. (The decision to locate his fantasy in Spain relates to Russia's anxiety over its own identity as a country on the periphery of Europe.) Accordingly, this fantasy world blurs all the boundaries separating the peripheries as Poprishchin claims Spain and China are the same country and most strikingly when he asserts that the moon was built on Earth. By blurring all the barriers that separate distinct entities in Poprishchin's fantasy world, Gogol offers one extreme example in which the center defines all the peripheries. Poprishchin's escapist fantasy dramatizes the anxiety that all individuals within a larger society feel about maintaining their own identity (which is the center of their world) while participating as peripheral figure in the larger action of the social world. This conflict is illustrated in the story's last paragraph in which Poprischin calls for a carriage driver to "carry me out of this world" while simultaneously feeling a desire to stay

with his "dear mother" in the comfortable house of his childhood. Poprishchin is caught in an unresolvable conflict between the two opposing desires to take flight to the peripheries and to uphold the traditional beliefs of his upbringing. This conflict does not only affect the individual, but applies to the larger issue of Russian national identity. Russia is torn between staying faithful to its tradition (or its center) and the need to push forward to find new experiences on the peripheries. Gogol's fiction dramatizes this clash reminding the reader that this conflict is and will remain unresolved. Psychoanalysis and Sexual Frustration Gogol himself suffered from a form of sexual impotency which prevented him from intimacy with women, which some critics believe contributed to the distant and alien portrayals of women in his fiction. The critic D.S. Mirsky claims in his celebrated A History of Russian Literature that "[Gogol] seems sexually never to have emerged from an infantile (or rather, early adolescent) stage. Woman was to him a terrible, fascinating, but unapproachable obsession, and he is known never to have loved."[13] In many of Gogol's stories, social standing is linked with marriage, and accordingly Poprishchin only fully understands his own social immobility when Sophie marries someone else. Throughout the story Poprishchin remains unable to have any meaningful contact with a woman, and he expresses his anxious separation when he whines: Oh, she's a perfidious being woman! Only now have I grasped what woman is. Till now no one has found out who she's in love with: I'm the first to discover it. Woman is in love with the devil. Yes, no joking. It's stupid what physicists write, that she's this or thatshe loves only the devil. See there, from a box in the first balcony, she's aiming her lorgnette. You think she's looking at that fat one with the star? Not at all, she's looking at the devil standing behind his back. There he is hiding in his tailcoat. There he is beckoning to her with his finger! And she'll marry him. Marry him. The critic Yermakov offers a Freudian interpretation of Gogol's fixation on noses as a form of castration anxiety. Yermakov contends that Kovalev's missing part in "The Nose" represents his fragile masculinity.[14] In "The Diary of a Madman", Poprishchin discusses how noses live on the moon and says, "And when I pictured how the earth is a heavy substance and in sitting down may grind our noses into flour, I was overcome with such anxiety... I hurried to the state council chamber to order the police not to allow the earth to sit on the moon." Many of the nonsensical comments reveal his repressed castration anxiety as he constantly worries how forces outside of his control could emasculate him.[15] Another notable example occurs while he is being tortured by the grand inquisitor, when he randomly interjects, "However, all this has been rewarded by my present discovery: I've

learned that every rooster has his Spain, that it's located under his feathers." In this passage, he equates the country of Spain to a rooster's genitalia obscured by his feathers. This bizarre comment offers revealing insight into Poprishchin's Spanish fantasy as an attempt to protect his fading masculinity and sexual virility. Schizophrenia Many have discussed the role of schizophrenia in "The Diary of a Madman" as Poprishchin exhibits all the symptoms characteristic of the disorder. Symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, disorganized speech and behavior, losing one's train of thought, emotional flattening, and hallucinations. [16] Moreover, Poprishchin's disjointed narration and perception of reality mirrors the symptoms of schizophrenia and has lead critics to often classify the narrative world of Gogol's short fiction as schizophrenic. Relation to Other Gogol Works

A Russian troika "The Nose" "The Diary of a Madman" was published in the same collection as another story that it's often compared to titled "The Nose." In "The Nose" Major Kovalev wakes up one morning to discover that his nose has gone missing from his face, which forces him to embark on many wild chases throughout the city to catch his nose which has absurdly assumed the identity of a person with a high ranking official job. Kovalev eventually finds the nose but remains unable to reattach it until he awakes the next morning to find the nose has miraculously secured itself back on his face. Critic Richard Peace comments on the similarity between "The Nose" and "The Diary of a Madman" asserting they have nearly identical openings, which suggests they are meant to be read together. [17] However, both stories share similar themes, "The Nose" stands out as the supreme example of Gogol's nonsensical artistic vision because it does not provide any justification for the absurd happenings, while the fantastic elements in "The Diary of the Madman" can be disregarded as facets of Poprischin's insanity. Dead Souls Gogol's magnum opus is widely considered to be the novel Dead Souls about the adventures of Chichikov who travels around Russia buying the contract of deceased

serfs. The end of Dead Souls contains a famous passage about a troika (a type of carriage), which evokes Gogol's earlier discussion of a troika speeding towards the horizon during the conclusion of "The Diary of a Madman." Both passages represent the uncertain future of the traditional Russian way of life as it hurtles into a frightening new age of modernity. At the end of "The Diary of the Madman" Poprishchin simultaneously wants to escape his fantasy world by accepting the troika's reckless forward momentum while also desiring to hold on to the private reality he has created for himself. Influence

Geoffrey Rush as Poprishchin Gogol's story "The Diary of a Madman" has enjoyed a widespread literary influence as it dovetailed with contemporary literary interests in the psychology of madness and the alienation of bureaucracy. Gogol's story also directly inspired several writers from diverse cultural backgrounds. The French author Guy de Maupassant wrote his own "The Diary of a Madman" several years after Gogol's story was published, and the Chinese writer Lu Xun was inspired by its themes to write "A Madman's Diary." Interestingly, Lu Xun originally encountered Gogol's story in a Japanese translation further illustrating the story's widespread influence. [18] The tale remains influential in modern literature as the Australian director Neil Armfield recently wrote a stage adaptation for the Belvoir company starring the Oscarwinning actor Geoffrey Rush. The production moved from Australia to New York where it is currently playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through March 12, 2011.[19] Gogol's story has also proved to be an important sociological document that has been helpful to psychologists for its accurate depiction of schizophrenia in a period where psychological diseases were not widely studied. It offers one of the first descriptions of schizophrenia and has been an important reference for researchers studying the history of the treatment of mental illness before the modern era.[20] Fun

Short Film

The following series of videos is a short film adaptation of Gogol's "The Diary of a Madman" by Colin McLaren.