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People's social standing is significant when they work for official institutions that are bound by bureaucratic laws and a rigid hierarchy of fixed standards of authority, order, and command. The example of a relationship between a personality and social institutions is reflected in Nikolai Gogol's literary work The Overcoat, written in the 19th century, that incorporates characteristics of realism and symbolism, and it reflects historical context for people in St. Petersburg, who were obligated by duty to be involved in formal work that brought them no pleasure. The leading character of the novel is the secretary officer Bashmatchkin who does ordinary assignments of rewriting some official letters by hand using goose’s feather and ink. He is obliged to make no mistake or error in these documents, as he risks to be fired. At the same time, he experiences to have complicated relationship with his co-workers who make fun of him every day, as they see his hard work. However, Bashmatchkin has hope for changes, and he ignores most of their verbal comments; but when they go too far and take steps to prevent him from work, he states: “I am your brother, don’t hurt me”. This statement reflects the foundation of Russian society in the 19th century: it was culturally suppressed by formal attitude to work and towards personality as the whole. People were not able to develop any creative potential at departments they worked.
However, having the idea for the further improvement of the situation, Bashmatchkin tries to save money to buy a new overcoat to prove he worthy. He earns 400 rubles annually, while the coat costs 80 rubles. He tries to limit expenses by stop drinking tea on evenings, not to light candles, and even walk on streets with caution to save his boots to serve him longer. Finally, his dreams came true and he ordered sewing the new overcoat that is the typical dressing style of general governers. Thereafter, attitude to him at work changed radically. His fellow clerks’ exposed sudden interest in celebrating his new overcoat. However, poor hard workers does not even came to realize that their celebrations on the coat were fake. For example, they tried to make fun out of him by explicit comments to “spray out” the coat by festive celebrations that should include drinking vodka and eating festive dinner. However, Bashmatchkin refused, and the dinner took place at the real prominent manager of the organization. The new coat was stolen that evening by robbers, when the owner was returning home drunk late at night. It symbolizes loss of comfort, however, fake comfort by nature. The relationship between official position and clothes is simply formal prejudice, but it reflects time and cultural period in which many people suffered from fake pride and formal prejudices, instead of coming out what they are, by professional growth, for which they had little opportunity.
Gogol, Nikolai. The Overcoat. Realism. Libravox Audio Book – Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol – The Cloak (The Overcoat) – Part One (2008).
Libravox Audio Book - Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol – The Cloak (The Overcoat) – Part One (2008).
Outis666. Libravox Audio Book – Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol – The Cloak (The Overcoat) – Part One (2008). “YouTube. youTube, 05 Dec. 2013. Web. 16 July 2014.
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