Study Guide

The Inspector General

by Nikolai Gogol

The Inspector General Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Anton Antonovich Skvoznik-Dmokhanovsky

Anton Antonovich Skvoznik-Dmokhanovsky (ahn-TOHN ahn-TOH-nuh-vihch SKVOHZ-nihk-dmew-hahn-OHF-skih), the prefect of a small provincial town in early nineteenth century Russia. He has received a warning letter from a friend that an inspector general is coming, traveling incognito, to visit the district in an attempt to find evidence of bribery and injudicious acts. The prefect calls a meeting of the citizens and orders them to mend their ways. He does not take kindly to their criticism that he has been taking bribes and recently had the wife of a noncommissioned officer beaten.

Ivan Alexandrovich Hlestakov

Ivan Alexandrovich Hlestakov (ih-VAHN ah-lehk-SAHN-druh-vihch hlehs-tah-KOHF), a smartly dressed traveler who, taking lodgings at the local inn, is mistaken for the inspector. A shrewd opportunist, he accepts money and gifts, goes to stay at the prefect’s house, and accepts an invitation to an official dinner at the hospital. He gets drunk and goes to sleep. When he awakes, he makes love to the prefect’s daughter and asks to marry her. He then requests five hundred rubles from complaining shopkeepers, borrows a coach, and, after writing to a friend an account of his...

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The Inspector General Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Brown, Nigel. Notes on Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector.” Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann Educational Books, 1974. The only book devoted entirely to a discussion of The Inspector General. Provides a broad overview of previous criticism and offers detailed consideration of characters, with particular attention devoted to Khlestakov.

Fanger, Donald. The Creation of Nikolai Gogol. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979. Considers the relationship between Gogol and his audience. Evaluates Gogol’s comic theory and his efforts at staging and self-interpretation.

Gippius, V. V. Gogol. Translated by Robert Maguire. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1989. Classic treatment of Gogol’s life and works. The chapter on The Inspector General analyzes the play’s structure and presents Gogol’s play as the beginning of social comedy with a serious purpose in Russia.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Nikolai Gogol. New York: New Directions, 1944. The clever tone of Nabokov’s book mirrors that of Gogol’s prose. The stylistic analysis is brilliant. Focuses on the theme of banality, with Khlestakov as one of its primary representatives. Points out Gogol’s genius in his attention to the absurd in everyday life.

Peace, Richard. The Enigma of Gogol: An Examination of the Writings of N. V. Gogol and Their Place in the Russian Literary Tradition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Evaluates the plot, characters, and structure of the play within the larger framework of the Russian tradition. Develops the theme of individual and social identity.