Multifaceted Metaphor: Gogol's Portrayal of St.

Petersburg in "Dead Souls" Author(s): Danielle Jones Source: Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, Vol. 56, No. 2 (2002), pp. 7-24 Published by: Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 26/08/2011 05:20
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and deceitful about fashion.the capital comes to representwhat is false. is not overt but rather cloakedin the portrayal the villageof N.Multifaceted Metaphor: in of St.further. In general.critics have not yet investigatedthe role of St. culture.everycapitalis characterized its people. This portrayal.especiallyParis.Although written to his contemporaries. foreign. Petersburg Dead Soulsbecomes an extended and comthat should be considered one of the great accomplishments of plex metaphor Gogol's writing career. Petersburg tryingto be capital by like foreign capitals. Petersburgin it. but Petersburghas no such character-stamp: foreigners the who settled here have made themselvesat home and aren'tlike foreignersat all. A close readingof Dead Soulsin light of lettersand biographical informationhighof lights how Gogol purposefullysubvertedthe glamorousrepresentation St. who throw theirstamp by of nationality on it. Petersburg Dead Souls Gogol'sPortrayal DANIELLE JONES SUNY-ALBANY In an earlyletter to his mother. that is at once the opposite of the ideal of and a satiricalcopy. Peof his daywith the hope that his fellow countrymenwould in turn tersburgtypical examine their superficialand indolent lifestyles. Yet the culminating effect of in Gogol'sportrayalof St. however.the Enlightenment.Through repetition and association.' This quotation provides an important insight into Gogol's which he expressedthrough increaspersonaldisillusionmentwith St. and the Russiansin their turn have turned into foreigners-they aren'tone thing or the other" (29). While scholarsand readersalike acknowledgethe importance of Dead Souls. Petersburg highlights an imperativeaspect of the historicaland contemporaryconsciousnessthat has been shapedby Russiansaroundits culturaland artistic capital.Nikolai Gogol observedthat St.The villageof N.Dead Soulsremainsimportantbecauseit continues to be readin schools and by the largerRussianpopulation. Petersburg ingly elaborateand veiled means in his greatworksthat culminatedin Dead Souls. and the upper class. Petersburgwas not trulyRussian:"Petersburg not at all like other Europeancapitalsor Mosis cow. mimics St. a criticalstudy of Gogol's portrayal of St. Thus. this classic has receivedless critical attention than it merits.Falsitybecomes more false until it is comiFALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 7 .

In the finalscene of"Nevsky Prospect. The reason for Gogol's shift in treatmentof St. (Letters When he moved to the as a young man. Gogol handlesthe same materialmuch more obliquely in Dead Souls. Petersburgin Dead Souls. He that the hero Piskaryov arguesthat the story portraysmore than the "grimreality" visualizes. was founded by Peter the Great to be the ideal Russiancity: "Gogol Petersburg goes beyond skepticism to outright mistrust of the Enlightenment and all its manifestations. Accordingly. Robert Maguireanalyzesthe role of the capital throughout Gogol's short stories in his essay "Placeas Nature. He began to exploreand portraythese notions in his short stories-notably "NevskyProspect.supan important foundation for the present research. The young Gogol's expectationsof the city were idealisticand mirroredhis expectationsof himself.however.particularly order. the heroes'superficiality and romanticidealismturn ominous.The multiple nuancesand the humor of Dead Soulscannot be fully appreciatedwithout this understandingof Gogol's portrayalof St. Petersburg sources. vitality.Danielle Jones callyfantastic."Maguire's argumenttracesthe developmentof St. Petersburg."Like his literaryprerary decessor.symmetry. plies from a varietyof historic and contempoGogol drewhis imagesof St. this Further. in the senseof a vital. Petersburg. however." example. since St.he soon became disillusionedwith his idealized capital image of St. He dreamedof a perfectunion with a locale that would allow him to servehis countryand become I great:"Perhaps will be able to live my whole life in Petersburg-at least I outlined just such a goal a long time ago already" 26).His essay.emotion. angleis essentialin recognizingGogol'sprofessedintentionsof showing the spiritualdeficiencieshe saw in all classesin Russiaand especiallyin the culturedsociety of St. in Petersburg Gogol'swork but stops short of Dead Souls. and religion.According to Maguire. Although critics have not examined the role of St." 8 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 .it also shows that the perceivedand unperceivedrealmsare controlled by satanic whim (77-78).including Pushkin's"The BronzeHorseman. inspiringprinciple"(78).Gogol portraysthe city more as an enemy to people and naturethan a friend(Maguire74). While the ideasthat Maguire pinpoints in his essayprovefairlyobvious. In the same way that the glittering Nevsky Prospect becomes a darkworld. Petersburgbecauseof the high cost of living and the difficultieshe had finding and keeping a job.with the corresponding loss of intuition.He seems to feel not so much that Peter'sgreat idea has disappearedas that there was never any real idea to begin with."Nevsky Prospect"expressesa criticism of society. Petersburgrelatesdirectly to his own complex relationshipwith the city.and reason.Maguire for contends that both the light and dark scenes of the story become ominous.

fear. curse me. Petersburg shown here to have a strong conferring powereven though it is not physicallypresent. Although TheInspector with St.they are one and the same to him. he also felt that city life was all he knew. Petersburgas the ultimate careeradvancement. Increasingly. Petersburg. Gogol had hoped his play would pinpoint his countrymen's spiritualdeficiencies and cause them to inspect their souls and the culture around them. Petersburg.but so do others in the village. Instead. Petersburgand his readers. The hero. its features are is St.Gogol does not distinguish between the city of St.Gogol decided not to complete the comedy he was writing. though he is a fool.Its slightestcharacteristic-and then how will my sen57). the villagersall treathim with respect. Petersburg.Multifaceted Metaphor It was after his play The Inspector General. In 1836 Gogol left Russia altogetherand returnedonly for a few short trips through the remainderof his life. but Petersburglife is bright before my eyes. that Gogol's relationship became more complex. Petersburgbecause of the general reaction to The Inspector "I General: am not embittered by the presentviolence against my play. however. While Gogol acknowledgedSt. Gogol recognizedthat the censors and his readers they deserved(Letters did not understandhis intentions.though.and deferencebecauseof his supis posed power and influence. has just arrivedin the village from St. Becauseof the reactionof the audienceand the censorsto TheInspector General.Gogol was very unhappy with this response:"I am not angry because my literaryenemies. its colors are vivid and sharpin my memory. Shortlyaftermoving to Rome. Petersburg is sadwhen you see how the stupidestopinion of a writershamed and spat upon by them has an effect on them and leads them by the nose" (Letters 56). He complained sitivity that if people living in the capital were sensitive to a satireabout six provincial officials. the since it is held up as the epitome of Russianculture by the characters. Petersburg General does not take place in St. by association. but he also acknowledgedtheir influence on his subject matter. In another letter Gogol emphasizedthe ambivalencehe felt about writing in the future about St.Not only does the governorsee the move to St. It is not until the end of the play that Khlestakovis shown to be a fraudand. Petersburg's countrymen talk?"(Letters to criticism. But I am sad to see the universalignorancewhich moves the capital.they would be outragedif he parodiedcity officials-a treatmenthe felt 56-57). Gogol began to work again. Provinciallife is alreadyheld weakly in my memory. whose talents are for sale. the audience merely enjoyed the comedy and became angry at his portrayalof officialdom and St. and. my sad future concerns me. FALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 9 . capitalstill playsa dominant role in the farce.

Creation 133). Gogol knew that thoughtful readerswho recognizedhis satire of St.yet. Petersburg its elite socialclass(Fanger. Thus. which might replace in real life the social void depicted in the book" (Fanger. Petersburgwould be upset with the portrayal. whose potency is here demonstratedeven in the remote heart of provincialRussia"(Fanger. The villagers'copy of a copy is hilariousand their actions are profoundly removed from the original high culture they believe they are representing. in contrast to St.In Dead Souls.Instead. Petersburg role in the novel. he decided to mask his cri56)..Unlike in his earlierworks.Still. accordingto his letters. Gogol hoped St. Gogol was able to and exposethe spiritualdecayof St. a careful investigation revealsthat Gogol imbeddedhis beliefsin Dead Soulsin such a way that he hoped would both admonish and encouragehis readers. St."Gogol" 89). Although Gogol'smethods aresubtle. Petersburg's supposed splendor and sophistication.he turnedto writingDead Souls. areshown to be ignorantin their beliefs about St. Petersburg representthe falsevalues and shallow religiosityGogol associated with foreign culture that was infiltrating Russia-especially in the upper classes. a pairingof the localesentailsa critiqueof the capital both directly by comparisonand indirectlyby contrast. By writing in contradictionsand oppositions. The VladimirCross.Danielle Jones The play he abandoned. St. a close readingshows Gogol'ssharpinterestin the capitalas a culturalicon: "The locus of the negativehad been identified in the work as Petersburg.Gogol exploredthe idea of a landownerwho desiredto buy seems to play almost no deceasedserfs. Petersburg and even unable to mimic their ill-chosen models. Petersburg and St. Petersburgreaderswould perceive the shallownessof the villagers(who were in effect copying them) and relatethis to their own lives.These 10 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 .. In light of this biographicalinformation. is portrayedas an imitation of foreigncities.and both the villageof N.hence. Petersburg was an was and overtcritiqueof the capitaland its upperclass. set in St. the individual readerwould be moved to a new life in the moral sense. Petersburg culture. But it is no longer the denizens of Petersburg that interest Gogol. and readersin their collectivitywould be moved to a new consciousnessof community.. it is the appeal of the idea of Petersburg. tique in humor (Letters believed the comedic affect of his work would allow his readersto recGogol ognize their own faults: "Througha processwe might today call consciousnessraising. Gogol used comedy to covertlyattackthe capital. "Gogol" 91). While Gogol did not relinquishhis plans for critiquingSt. Gogol manipulatesthis situation in severalways:the villagersof N.Gogol does this by setting the village of N.the capital of illusion. his disclosurebecame more covert in Dead Souls.

As seen in the following examples. A similarmood is evident in Dead Souls. of built FALL 2002 * ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + II . however. Petersburg must conform to strict height standards.the village of N. shows its lack of refinementand is "In pairedwith St. Additionally..This life-like quality. Petersburgat the same time as it is opposite of the capital. Petersburgaids the readerin understandingmuch of the humor in Gogol's celebratedwork.. While the livelinessof the village is humorous. recognition of the village of N. though the town is said to have "yielded in nothing to other provincial towns" (7): "The houses were of one. The entranceto any town whatever. in others they clusteredtogether.wide as a field. Ultimately. The important point is the function of the name of the capitalat the outset and the mood it creates"(Nordby 272. and the never-endingwooden fences.with those eternalmezzanines so beautiful in the opinion of provincial architects. Petersburg: the beginning one neversees the whole broadflow and volume of a thing. and one and a half stories. and awe "Petersburg of its brilliantsocial life and assemblageof importantpersonages.. it also signalsthe chaos Gogol associated with foreign philosophies: "The Enlightenmentwas a foreign concept. The narrator describesthe mezzaninesand height of the mandatethat buildingsas if they were a specialfeaturesimilarto Peterthe Great's all the buildings in St. 280). two.I think this explainswhy Gogol's laterlandscapesof Parisarevirtuallyidenticalto his landscapes Petersburg.'s contrast to St. that it is somehow cancerous and has irretrievably fallen prey to the devil" (Setchkarev187). The opening descriptionsin Dead Soulsshow how the villagersattemptto make their town a smallerreplicaof St. which Russiansassociatedespeciallywith France.. the Further.Multifaceted Metaphor undercurrents lend the book a certainhaunted quality beneath the surfacecomedy: "The backgroundagainstwhich Dead Soulsis set is the awarenessthat the world is somehow in a bad state. is shown to be like St.It is also implied that the village architectsare the only ones who find their buildings attractive. howthrowsa shadowover ever. is always somehow pale"(247). In some places the houses seemed lost amid the street. Petersburg the villagefunction in TheInspector and General: is peripheral-almost a legendwhich fostersboth the fear .. the atmosphereof both locales conveys an impression of distrust similarto the way St. but rather reminiscent of confused not cultured.the phrase"in the opinion of the provincialarchitects" this supposed beauty by implying that the architectsare not "certified" at least or not "city"architects. that it has taken the wrong path.even a capital. and here one could note more animation and human commotion" (7). The opening descriptionof the villageof N. houseshavean animatedqualityas if they had a mind of theirown: lost" and "cluster" they "get together. Petersburgbut fail at every point. as the narratorintimates.

and yet not thin either. Petersburg conversationand manners and the provincialofficialswho do not even possess those shallow capabilities.some of these were of a kind difficult to distinguishfrom Petersburgers. so far as it has an effect upon mankind. All of his physical attributesare common.Further. the clude the classof men to which the officialsbelong:"Alas! fat know betterthan the slim how to handle their affairsin this world. gentlemen who only careabout superficial Gogol both mocks the St. but alwaysdirect ones. These villagers"were wants to belong to the men associated the slim ones. Petersburg used to elucidate Gogol's largertheme. In many ways the introduction of Chichikov parallelsthe introduction of the as villageofN.These. The thin gentlemen are distinguished. Petersburg elite. eduway as in Petersburg" cated and feel comfortablein mixed company. In deciding if he wants to join the thin men.. lacksharmony. and. and once they sit somewhere. looked askanceat the ladies and backedawayfrom them. and rapid movement" foreign (Maguire78).. contrawise. The disorderof the houses ties the village to St. Soon. and the readerdiscernsthat the protagonistis neither the classichero nor the evil viland lain. Petersburg. Since the chaos of the village of N. who kept mincing around the ladies.they sit reliablyand firmly. In languagethat stronglyechoes a letter to his mother deGogol forces Chichikov to decide whether he scribing the city of St. and only kept glancing servantwas setting up a greentablefor whist" aroundto see whetherthe governor's The fat gentlemen are not as socially nimble as their counterpartsand in(11). sitting down the ladies. having side-whiskers. not all that fat.speakingFrenchand makingthe ladieslaughin the same casuallybeside (11). Gogol's tenets it is dishonest. disorder.. or those like Chichikov-that bringspeace. that the position will sooner creakand sag underthem than they will fall off of it" (11). Petersburg. In this way.. Chichikovis also set in contrastto St. with the culturedelite. or if he wants to mingle with those more like himself:"The otherkind of men consistedof the fat ones.: Chichikovis stereotypedby the narrator a "middlingsort"of traveler stopping at a typical village. Whereasthe fat neveroccupy indirect positions. 12 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 .Danielle Jones as they are on images of light.The turmoil represented the houses will quickly become by apparentin the villagers'lives and actions. It is these "fatmen" that Chichikov decides to join and become associatedwith throughout the remainderof the work.and to Gogol'sbeliefsabout art:"Gogol does seem to have been convinced of the notion that harmonyis essentialto beautyand truth-and it is to a revelation of this harmony that art aspires.fragmentation.young.. Chichikov must determineif he can fulfill the cultivatedrole of a St. perhapsmost importantof all reconciliation"(Zeldin 37).

enlightenment.The narrator claims that "to him those gentlemen of the grand sort mean decidedly nothing. Petersburg men. but They are no longer "enlightened" pointlessly borrowed. These refined gentlemenarepreoccupiedwith the type of food they eat and areoverlyconcerned with their health.Multifaceted Metaphor In a later chapter. These luxuriesare associatedwith forinfluences by Sobakevich:"Itwas the German and Frenchdoctors who ineign vented it all .They "swallowoysters. They say: enlightenment.. they fancy they can take on the Russianstomach too! . his role is more complex becausethe fat men aremerelyoppositesof the St.and this enlightenment-poof! I'd use another word only it wouldn't be proper at the table" (98).enlightenment. Despite their abilitiesto buy fine food. they turn a good thing into a bad one by indulging too much. spend their time pondering what they would like to eat the next day and what dinner to devise for the day after.but the villagersof N.with all improvementson a foreign or Russianfooting. Petersburgsociety around them. Unfortunately.... Hence even when their stomachs are full. so the men in these passages reflectthe largervillage of N.the narratorof Dead Soulsexplains that the distinction between the fat and thin men is importantbecauseit emphasizesthe spiritualstate of the men. Petersburg who feast on delicaciesand extravagant foods. who live in Petersburgor Moscow.and who will not partake of that dinner without first sending a pill into their mouths"(59). Better that I eat just two courses. The fat men seem to be heading in the right direction in Gogol'smind becausethey like honest Russianfare.. On the other hand. Just as Maguirearguedthat the heroesin "NevskyProspect" reflected the frivolous St.but eat my fill.and other marvels"(59). Although Chichikov initially chooses to associatewith the fat men. only so as to have a stomach such as a gentleman of the middling sort has" (59). as my soul demands"(98)..This is Gogol's serious censureof the Enlightenmentcloaked in humor.sea spiders.. Petersburgdeny their dietary needs by eating foreign food. The town officials are correlatedwith the noble diners of St. Gogol implies he needs honest Russianspirituality to be fulfilled: "With me it is not like that.the rich men arestill envious of the middling sort: "Morethan one gentleman of the grandsort would instantlysacrifice half of his peasantsouls and half of his estates.mortgagedand unmortgaged. The type of stomach a gentleman has implies the spiritualstate of his soul. the gentlemen of St. According to Sobakevich.When Sobakevichexplains he would ratherhave honest food.riches alone cannot acquiresuch a physique (60). FALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 13 . and the capitalit parodies.when the foreignfoods arebroughtinto Russiathey become tainted. They arecarefulto eat only the finest fare-or at least the most fascinating. are overly gluttonous. however. they cannot be satisfied.

and inscribed: VASSILY FYODOROV.St. presentthese relationships as components of a collective life" (Ivanov201). Petersburg remainsperipheral legendarydue to the critiand cism that was leveled at Gogol for his earlierrepresentationof the capital. Thus." however."to "a kind of desired mean (Woodward 38) (seredina). and St. he fulfills the same role as the village of N.Gogol did not see St. or.As Chichikovwandersdown the village streetsfor the firsttime. with pretzelsand boots. with blue trouserspicturedon them and the signatureof some Warsawtailor. then a shop with peaked caps.Chichikov moves between the roles symbolizedby the fat and thin men but never quite fits into either group. flat caps.As one scholarnotes.allowsthe villagersto interpretloosely and projecttheirown fearsand desireson the capital and also allows Gogol to critique St. the 14 * ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 ." Gogol did see these negativeeffects entering Russiafrom outside of her borders: takenseparately discerned "he evidenceof Both in the massesand in individuals with "thatperfectionto which moderncivilization a profounddissatisfaction" to and enlightenmenthave raisedus"and a no less profoundaspiration attain. In addition to this scene being chaotic. but the readersees Chichikov as a scoundrelwho is not intelligent or willful enough to be truly evil. Petersburg indirectly. rather. but. Petersburg type of man when he takeson the role of the hero-millionaireafter acquiring the dead souls. with the aid of "a genuine law of behavior. in an individualized form: Chichikov both copies the St. of Gogol's chief disagreements The narratorof Dead Souls explains that in the business district "one came acrosssignboardsall but washed out by rain. In Dead Souls. He consideredit warpedor twistedfrom the "genuine" "true. and Chichikov represent(though not realistically) Russiaas a whole in Gogol'seyes. This allows the individuals to stand for a microcosmand in turn "thatsocial confederationto whose entertainment and edification the comic action is directed"(Ivanov201).Danielle Jones The villagerssee Chichikov as a St. Gogol's damncondemns Russiafor what he ing portrayalof the village of N.and he hoped to provide them with a truth through his writings. the "actionsarenot limited to a circleof personalrelationships. Petersburg saw as "anall-embracingform of spiritualand emotional stagnation that he attributedto the divisiveeffectsof modern Europeancivilization"(Woodward38). in one place. Petersburgian In turn. ineffectivelyand is shown in direct contrastto the ideal man.Gogol recognizedthat his fellow countrymenwere not fulfilled by their false spirituality. I disagree with Woodward. As a traveler. both the village of N. many with Russiansociety come to light. Petersburg's spiritualstateas stagor nant.This "otherness." Accordingto Woodward. FOREIGNER" (7).

Petersburg conversationwithin Russiathat discussedwhetherRussiashould copy her culture from foreign ideals or createthem from her own heritage.. theirarmssomewhattwistedback and their legs askew. Gogol continues to playwith imitationas the narrator describesother merchants: "Someplacesthereweretables in the street. The narratorexplains.with nuts.moved between two poles: an imitation of Europeanways and a discoveryof indigenous values"(Maguire 135).the ladies of N.Multifaceted Metaphor merchantsnamed are foreign. St. soap. and above all following fashion down to the least detail. Russiahad to decide how she was going to "find herself.."The ladies of the town of N. Petersburg and Moscow are held up as the epitome of prosperityand propriety.Acto the narrator. As Chichikovproceedsthroughthe villageofN. but this of only servesto heighten the preposterousness the signs.During Gogol's time. Russiawas trying to find and balanceher ideas of cultureand society: "Moreoften than not.perhaps. and in this respectthey may boldly be held up as an example to all others" their wives as showpieces.It is for this reason. The billiard playerslook overdressed and foolish because their posture is awkward.keepingtone. In Dead Souls. Though Gogol's concern with women'smannersseems excessive. if they outclassedthe women from the capitals. observingetiquette."and Gogol was intent on expressinghis viewpoint on the matter.By doing this. were what is called presentable. is so damning-Gogol found imitation of foreign ideals to be one of the most dangerousinfluences in Russia as he shows in the following examples.he chose to use them as an example of his greatest practical and philosophical arguments nobility. Another sign indicates the villagers'presumption to fashion: "In another place a picture of a billiard table with two players in tailcoatsof the kind worn in our theaterby guestswho come on stage in the last act.having just performedan entrechatin the air"(7). in this they surpassedeven the ladies of Petersburg and Moscow" (159). the (159).the above descriptionof the signboardsserveas a tool or "sign" for interpretingthe women's imitation of foreign styles and fashionableculture.would be the fashion leadersof the country. While it is the men who are "presenting" narratorimplies the women are the source of their artificiality: for knowing "As how to behavethemselves. a host of proprieties of the subtlest sort.The players weredepictedaimingtheircues. and gingerbreads simply standing resemblingsoap" FALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 15 . the obsession with Russianness.which lay at the heart of cultural discoursein the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.his portrayalof the women of N. Gogol was takingpartin a larger againstthe St. shops are further"solidified" the pronouncement the cording by "AND THIS IS THE ESTABLISHMENT"written under the names.

arepresentedas constituting a certain harmoniousand foreordainedsocial cosmos"(Ivanov201). As the "beststreet.their signs. he turns his attention to the town garden"whichconsisted of skinny trees. The narratordescribes this splendor for severalpages. though these trees were no taller than reeds. is similarto the disorderedscenery and in of The storyportrays characters St.badly rooted. but much of the account is tongue-in-cheek or is satirical. Even the gingerbread ferent in function-like the merchants. the However. as if they describedsome festive decorations. foreign influences. fleecing. of course. wide-branching trees that provide coolness on hot days"' (7). "Nevsky" 245). Petersburg "NevskyProspect. Gogol createshumor between these disof common life: "TheInspector Generalis and intrinsically Aristophanically parities comic in that the triviality. in the citizens'artificialfeelings and reactionsto the ugly trees. contain a satireon banality.and depravityof a way of life basedon a generallyacceptedand unshakablehierarchyof rightsthat sanctionsswindling. After Chichikov inspects the houses and is a copy of foreign cities and false ideals. "Nevsky" to be the height of beauty and refinementin Russia. The myth soon reacheshyperbolicproportions:"Itwas very moving to see the heartsof the citizens flutter in an abundanceof gratitudeand pour forth streamsof tearsas a toof ken of thankfulnessto mistergovernor" The character the town is reflected (8). "mercanof tile interests.very beautifullypaintedwith greenoil paint"(7). the merchantsseem to resemblehonest businessmen. The villagers ignorethe true state of their treesand make up a myth about them: "However."Whata quickphantasmagoria performedon it in the courseof a single How many changes it undergoes in the course of a single day and night!" day! 246). thereit is everything.on poshlost. Gogol finds these standards-its wealth. proppedby supports formed in triangles. The narratorimplies that while Nevsky Prospectseems (Gogol. The introduction of the village of N. While the gingerbread simulatessoap." Nevsky Prospect as the ideal Russianstreet:"Thereis nothing betterthan Nevsky Prospect.inanity. As he did in TheInspector General. and the village of N.Indeed.that 'our town has been for leastnot in Petersburg.coercing. Gogol makes it possible for the readerto simultaneouslyacceptand rejectthe rationaleof the village. and repressing. thanks to the solicitude of the civic ruler."Nevsky Prospectsupposedlyrepresents ideal in Russia. tyrannizing. it may be-and often has been-read as a social at16 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 ."and the "exhibitions" the elite class-to be ugly and deceitful: "This second part of 'Nevsky Prospect'does a gardenconsisting of shady.Danielle Jones mimics somethingwholly unlike itself and entirelydif(7). What does this street-the beauty of our capital-not shine with!" (Gogol. it was said of them in the newspapers.

like a nimble fop the short-livedword of the Frenchmanflashesand scatters.Still. intelligent word..but all is axecannotdestroyit. in one line you areportrayed from head to foot! (108) The narratorclaims the more "pure" Russianlanguageis-the fewer foreign the influences there are in it-the strongerand more superiorit is: "Stronglydo the Russianfolk expressthemselves!And if they bestow a little word on someone.his stylistictechniques and in the laterwork aremore matureand covert. Petersburg in "NevskyProspect"is important because it makes clear that Gogol's images of confusion..whimsicallydoes the German contrivehis lean. how apt is that comes from deep Russia. While this was considereda commendable trait for ladies in Gogol's day. should do so in Russian. it will go with him and his posterity for generations. The narratormentions Petersburg specificallybecause this is where foreign languages. The narratorin Dead Soulsgrants that other languageshave their admirable qualities(althoughthe qualityof Frenchis cited as negative.and he will drag it with him into the service.Multifaceted Metaphor tack on the mores and the emptinessof the Russiancapitalin Gogol'sday. Still.under the pretextof culture. their imitated proprietyis false and becomes outFALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 17 . Gogol'sstrong belief in the qualities of the Russianlanguagedrove his attackon the use of foreign languagesby the upperclassof Russiain generaland represented the elitby in ist classof ebullient and vibrantwith life. portrayshis beliefs in a number of pasHe sages concerning the ladies of the village of N.. While Gogol critiquesSt. livelyandpert Russian . In Dead Souls the narratorclaims the strength of the Russianlanguageis derivedfrom its ability to be precise: Aptly utteredis as good as written. Russianis the best language:"There is no word so sweeping. The point is that it is all a lie" (Zeldin 42). disorder.. Petersburg particular. not accessible to all"(109). as an aptlyspoken Russianword"(109). so burstingfrom beneath the very heart.wheretherearenot German. by an extraordinary guished. like many Petersburg prudenceand propriety in theirwords and expressions" (160).if they wished to expressthemselves honestly. And is the German):"A knowledge of heartsand a wise comprehensionof life resoundin the word of the Briton.. In one passage. so pert. the overtcritiqueof St.and to Petersburg. Petersburgfor the samereasonsin both "NevskyProspect" Dead Souls.or Finneverything wit ish. were distinladies. and into retirement. the narrator contends. arecarefulto speakas "properly" "stylishly" and as possible: "It must also be said that the ladies of the town of N. or any othertribes.and to the ends of the earth (108).and strangelight in a city are indicationsof the characters'artificialityand spiritualdeprivation. Gogol believed that Russians.the ladiesof N.were spoken the most.

'or something of that sort"(160).Although the women do not realizehow ridiculoustheirconversationsounds. and Thus. country. but of understandingone's culture.' 'I spat.YetGogol believedthe languageone spoke was not a matter of manners. it was a different matter:there such wordswereallowedas weremuch coarserthan those aforementioned" (160). who knew French themselves.While they were laughing at the ignorance of the provincial speakers. Petersburgcounterparts. botches the subjectsof their conversationbecauseit is imprecise:"Itwas in no casepossibleto say:'This glassor this plate stinks. For him. a misuse of language led to misunderstandingsof a much larger scope. The women's gentility. and self. should have caught the ladies' Gogol's readers. Gogol uses humor to attack the upper-classcustom of speaking foreign languagesbecausehe feels they are detrimentalto the Russianlanguage 18 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 .sconapel and in an utterly imploring voice" (184). in addition to making them sound asinine. mispronunciation.' the visitor said with an expressionalmost of understand. Gogol usestheirdialogue to satirizethe salonswhere the aristocrats spoke French. almost half of its words were banishedfrom conversation altogether.they were also effectivelylaughing at themselvesfor speakingFrenchin the first place. although there. The speakerhad thought she despair was saying"cequ'on appellehistoire('What'sknown as a story.they areconstructing odd sentences and silly phrasesand thereby decreasingthe simple diuse rectnessof the Russianlanguage:"Gogol contraststhe characters' of natural and artificial.Danielle Jones landish and humorous: "Neverwould they say: 'I blew my nose. like their St. Their exchangehighlightshow their "elegant" speechgets Chichikov and everyoneelse in trouble.or scandal')" (399).. but instead they would say: 'This glass is being naughty.also regularlyspeak French:"To ennoble the Russianlanguagestill more.and thereforeit was quite often necessaryto have recourseto the Frenchlanguage. are These typesof misunderstandings illustratedin a conversationbetweentwo women of N. the ladiesareshown to be hypocritical dishonestbecausethey saythings in Frenchthey will not say in Russian. do you istwar. In addition to distorting Russianwith their silly phrases.'And it was even impossibleto say anythingat it.a story.The women begin conversingabout the news that Korobochkahas brought to one of them about Chichikov.' but rather:'I relievedmy nose' or 'I resortedto my handkerchief"'(160).' 'I sweated. While the women aretrying to createartfulmetaphors. He uses similes and metaphorsthat awkwardly portraysome naturalthing as an artifactor vice versa"(Lahti 144).constructedspeech. in French.the ladies of N.One woman beginswith a mispronunciationwhich the other does not catch: "'It'sa whole story.

As these provincial women copy their urban counterparts. a governing FALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 19 . As the borderbetween town and country.and speakers.the women'sspeech also contains many Gallicisms in addition to their botched French.' the simply agreeablelady said. so admire.its excessis not apparentuntil Chichikov'sfirst journey out of the village of N.letting it be known that the pavement. but he knows the Russian elite would not be interestedin a confrontationalor serious critique. he finds the "softground"of the country roadsto be superiorin comfort. the realstate of the town streetsbecomes apparent:"The britzkawent bouncing over the cobbles.much of the conversationsurroundsthe misunderstandingof Chichikov'sidentity and actions.their Frenchcomplicatesand confuses the news Korobochkahas relatedabout Chichikov buying dead souls: "'But. Although the compliment seems a little too complimentary.Moreover. too. More importantly. Chichikovwas at last racingoversoft ground" (18). In addition to the cobblestones. After providingcues for how to understandthe boundariesof the Russianlanguage.V. only it'snot dead souls here. In addition to the other grammatical faux pas inthe ladies make. they also say "orerre" insteadof horreur "scandaleusities" and stead of scandals(399). the 'poetry of fancy"' (221).' 'I confess. Not without joy was the stripedtollgate beheld in the distance. not without surprise" (186).readers. would soon come to an end. somehow in passing. Although Chichikov sees himself as a city gentleman. and aftera few more good hard bumps of his head againstthe sides. the pavement is firstmentioned by Chichikovto the governoras a compliment:"He hinted. Chichikovwas lying to the governorand playingon his pridethat the streets were a modern improvement over the country roads.the tollgate is an important physical and rhetoricaldevice: it signals a gate. Gogol proved the Russian language was adequate for Russian writers. in a comic light. According to RussianscholarV. they had no need for foreign languages. that one drove into his province as into paradise. as you will. there'ssomething else hidden in it. In effect. and of great praise"(9). and are given particularattention in severalpassages. Petersusing outdated phrasesand "emotionalhyperbolism" elite that the women of N.. I think any other torment. then. In the text.they prove their ignoranceof fashion by ridiculedby the St. Gogol turns his attention to the cobblestone streetsthat representthe perimeterof the village of N.Multifaceted Metaphor and in turn to Russia as a whole. In Dead Souls.that the roads everywherewere like velvet.Vinogradov. The women are so absorbedin the style of their conversationthat they do not consider the import of it.the cobblestonessupposedlydemarcate the line between the cultured and the uncultured.Gogol included "newemoburg tional phraseologicaldevices to depict. a price to be paid.

' replied asks again. As a scoundrel.he is firstconcernedthat his son knows It about "Paris. It is only afterChichikov'sreturnto the village of N. againaddressing boy. Themistoclus. For a child of eight. With Manilov'spretensions to culture.." is only afterthe boy names St. and objects themselvesalso seemed to mingle.'suchknowledge. 'Petersburg. The imagerypairsthe villageof N. Gogol subtly managesto slip in In he allusionsto St.way abovehis eyes. Petersburg its fantasycan shapepeople'slives. these answersare no greataccomplishment. with the demonic and deceitfully 20 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 . the mustacheof the soldierstandingsentry seemed to be on his forehead.. Chichikov is duly impressedwith the boy: "'The smarty! The sweetie!' Chichikov said to that.To provehis eldest son'sculturededucation. and his nose was as if not there at all"(131).as evidencedby shakinghis head "no" in many respectsand proveshow artificiality miniatureincarnationof his father or engendersartificiality-how the falsenessof a surroundinglike St. 'No. really.especiallyFrenchculture.' he continued. Gogol has purposefullyorderedthese "bestcities"in a hierarchy."He is a very smart. Petersburg-the Russiancity closest to a Europeanprototype-that Manilov considersMoscow.Chichikov is where he feels most comfortableback on the road.Yethe is not while he is saying "yes. particular. Shadow and light were thoroughly mingled. As Manilov hoped. critiquesthe Russianeducationalsystem when Chichikovvisits Manilov.but. as in everycompliment.and the official enclosureof the villageof N. 'Andbesides that?''Moscow. Manilov. that the artificialitypervasivethroughout the work begins to have consequences for the characters.After the boy answers"Paris" what is our best city?'Manilov (27).Danielle Jones power. Even while Chichikov is in the countryside. When Chichikov reentersthe village after a successfulbuying spree of dead souls. Manilov askshim to name the best city in such an age!I must tell you.Chichikov is eager to leave authority behind him so he may go about his business of buying dead souls. turning to Manilov with a look of some amazement.'repliedThemistoclus"'(27).'he went on. The particolored tollgate took on some indefinite hue.. the tollgate is enshroudedas if the hero'sreturnhas suspect import: "Itwas thick dusk by the time they drove up to the even more unawareof the boy'sabilities:"'Iintend him the for the diplomaticline. Chichikov flatters. Themistoclus. 'want his breadand wagto be an ambassador?' 'Yes. Manilov turns his attention to Russia:"'And The tutor again turned up his attention. Themistoclusdoesprovehis diplomacyby supging plying Manilov and Chichikovwith the answersthey desireto hear. this child will have great abilities"'(27). chewing his head right and left"'(28).'repliedThemsistoclus. Petersburg. as a traveler.however.

evthis erythingis not what it seems to be!"(277). PetersProspect" burg and the village of N. is beginning to change: "The streetlampswere not yet burning.. The story concludes with a description of Nevsky Prosof pect counter to the one in the beginning:"Strangest all arethe events that take place on Nevsky Prospect.They prey on "theslim clerkswith canes. Everythingis deception.. everythingis a dream. night is coming with its reversalsand boding of darkerthings for Chichikov similar to the fate of the protagonist of"Nevsky Prospect."Eitherway."when the devil is lighting the lamps during "that mysterious time when lamps endow everything with some enticing and wondrous light" (250). Furthermore. It lies all the time. everything breathesdeceit. The narrator does not tell us what they are. Petersburg resentedby the tollgate and sentry) and Chichikov are not what they seem..Multifaceted Metaphor and the Enlightenment:the village of N.instead. The narrator's observationthat these are typical people and scenes for the daytime hours seems entirelycorrectuntil he continues to describe"beingsof a special kind. and the devil himself lights the lamps only so as to show everythingnot as it reallylooks" (278). only here and there the windows of the houses were beginning to light up.the clerks'culpabilityis in question by the words "probably returning. areshown to be parallelin their deceitfulnessand artificiality. but most of all at the time when night heavesits dense mass upon it .workers" (131).coachmen.he leavesthe readerwith an image of absence-something "not there at all"-like the dead souls and the spiritual emptiness of the villagers. the village of N. These "beingsof a specialkind"arethe village'scounterpartsto the Nevsky Prospectprostitutes.. Although Chichikov does not know it yet. the cobblestoneswill not be the only way the little village jolts him. in the form of ladiesin red shawlsand shoes without stockings.. Thus.who flit about like bats at the streetcorners" (131). the cobblestones again prove to be uncomfortablefor the road-weary "A traveler: rumbling and jolting made it known that the britzkahad come to the pavement"(131).the readerrealizesthat Chichikov's demise is imminent becausehe not only does not recognizethis artificialitybut also practicesit. recall the last scene of "NevskyProspect. and in nooks and crooks there occurredscenes and conversationsinseparablefrom the time of day in all towns where therearemany soldiers." FALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 21 . deceitto fulnessis attributable the devil himself:"Along with the streetlamp.Once again St. Accordingto the narrator. While the women areundoubtedlyguilty. "Nevsky servesas a type of foreshadowingfor Dead Souls. who were probablyreturninghome after a stroll out of town" (131). (repbeautifulquality of St. The shadow and light imageswhen Chichikov reentersthe village of N. this Nevsky Prospect. On Chichikov'sreturn to the village.

This sceneforeshadows grace"with the villagersof N. Korobochka's arrivalin the village of N. I'll prove it to you there!"'(131).were (224). as we know. and streets. also as if hopping for their own part. go to the police. For his part. workadaylife againgoes struttingbeforehim"(132). But even St. Darknessfallscompletelyby the time the landownerKorobochkaenters the town. He is in heaven . and she depicts the devil comas ing to changeeverythingand "lightthe streetlamps" happenedin "NevskyProswhere everythingbecomes pect. the readersees the cobblestones one last time as Chichikov leaves the village of N.By returningto the country road. apparentlyfeminine exclamations:'Lies.With a sort of indefinitefeeling he gazedat the unexpectedlythrustback into "Inshort.wordswhich suddenlypour like boiling pitch oversome dreamy reallife: twenty-year-oldyouth. At the end of Dead Souls.Danielle Jones The hero of Dead Souls is oblivious to the dusk and his impending fate: "Chichikovpaid them no notice"(131). the fatal words. is comparedto St. when he is returningfrom the theater. Chichikov. has been in a dreamworld.evidentlyhad little familiaritywith the comforts of town cobblestones"(178). maybe especiallySt.has its "fallfrom Chichikov's plethoraof common people and life. Chichikov was "bounced"out of town by the slowly moving backwards" gossip that he was going to steal the governor'sdaughter. Korobochkais bringing truth to the town-though she is not awarenor could understandher role. in a great hurry. owing to the pavement. you boor.just returningfrom Plyushkin's.. where he gained many dead souls.which. motive for Chichikov'sexile is not the real reasonhe should be banished. possesseda bouncing force. fences.. which. because they were not shod and.. wall. While Chichikov brought lies to the countryside. and suddenly over him there resound. is a reversal of Chichikov'sdeparturein severalways:the horsesareleavingthe comfort of the soft roads.. and Korobochkais bringing the news of Chichikov'sdealings that will figurativelybring him to his knees. Chichikov does not reallyknow what happened.a country woman is entering a town. Chichikov. He finallybecameawareof his surroundings when loud yells broke into his reverie:"Fromtime to time there reachedhis ears certain. besides. The traveler. like thunder. When Chichikoventersthe village. Chichikov is removinghimself to a place of safety and comfort: "The carriage again startedits jigging and jolting. Petersburgin the famous HaymarketSquare.his "indefinitefeeling"reflectsthe amorphousrole he has played 22 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + FALL 2002 .. Petersburg."The village of N.. and he sees that he is back on is dusk. and even on HaymarketSquare . Petersburg reversedand not as they seem: "The horses kept falling on their the cobblestones the that are artificialand unsatisfactory. you drunkard!I never alor lowed him no such rudeness!' 'Don't fight.

Nikolai.specifically. "travels"betweenthe rolesof hero and villainwithout fulfillingeitherof them. Petersburg during Gogol's time.1999. Petersburg and becomes a satiricaldistortion of the values they hold. Through these various angles in Dead Souls. Gogol. Proffer. VintageBooks.By linking the village of N. -. otherRussian textsarereferred by of in to in translation orderto makethispaperas accessible possible a broad as to audience. to the capital through the types of homes the villagersbuilt. VintageBooks.1996. Overall.RichardPevearand Larissa "NevskyProspect.1978. 1967. -.Donald.and conversations in French. excessivemanners. 1979. The villagers. University Trans. Proffer.and the town garden. 61-95.themPetersburg selves. Ed.Multifaceted Metaphor of in all along. areboth a parodyand a mirrorof the upper classesthat lived in St. Petersburgand its inhabitants is shown through his covert portrayalof them in Dead Souls. NY: Volokhonsky. the business district of foreigners.Ann Arbor:University of Michigan Press. He both mimics the esteemed gentleman of St. Works Cited Fanger. Chichikov is moving forwardout of their lives.MA: Belknap Press.Chichikov. -.While the villagersaremoving backwards their understanding him.+ Notes 1Quotations fromGogol's letters havebeentakenfromthe authoritative editionof All Letters NikolaiGogol translated CarlR. Petersburg began in "NevskyProspect"and weaves it into a complex and multifacetedmetaphor." CA: WilliamMillsTodd. Gogol critiques the splendor of St.Gogol he extends the critique of St. and "Gogol and his Reader. FALL 2002 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW + 23 ."The CollectedTales.DeadSouls. and trans. Trans. that he sees as a false imitation of foreign cities.Stanford. Carl R. LettersofNikolai Gogol. Gogol's disillusionment with St. The Creationof Nikolai Gogol. The women's dress. Literature Societyin ImperialRussia:1800-1914. Stanford Press.Ed. Pevear Larissa and Richard NY: well as the men'seating habits speak to the spiritualdeficiencies that Gogol perceivedof his fellow countrymen.

Inc. Woodward. 1978. Katherine.Lawrence. and trans. Maguire. dissertation."Gogol Ivanov. OH: SlavicaPublishers. 1994. Setchkarev.IL: NorthwesternUniversity Press. Princeton. Susanne Fusso and PriscillaMeyer.StanfordUniversity: 1971. 326-368.CA: StanfordUniversityPress. 1992.D. His Trans. 1965."Gogol'sComic Theory and Practicein TheInspector Ph. Gogoland the Natural School. Zeldin.Ed.V. 24 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW +. Vinogradov.James B. 1987. "Gogol'sMertvyedushi:the Epic as Analogue.V. Meaning:Essays RussianLiterature. Evanston. NJ: Princeton University Press. 199-214. ExploringGogol." Nordby.Vyacheslav. 1974."Formand on Columbus. Jesse. Nikolai Gogol's QuestforBeauty.Stanford. 143-157. Maguire."Essays Gogol: Logos and the WrittenWord. EdwardLamar. Robert. University Press.NY: New York Vsevolod."Artificiality Nature in Gogol's Dead Souls. General. CA: Ardis Press.KS: Regents Pressof Kansas.Robert Kramer. 1993. on and Lahti.Dana Point."Gogol'sInspector the Twentieth from Century.Danielle Jones General and the Comedy of Aristophanes. Gogol: Life and Works.Ed. RobertA..FALL 2002 .

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