In many a workplace, there is one person who serves as the object of the others’ cruel amusement. In “The Overcoat,” that person is Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin, a poor office worker whose very name reminds a Russian of excrement-befouled boots (from “kaka,” the child’s word for excrement, and “bashmak” for boot or shoe). His coworkers poke endless fun at him. They tear paper into confetti and sprinkle it over his head. Akaky protests only when the torment becomes extreme. Otherwise, he is content to work as a copy clerk, keeping his pencils sharp and copying document after document all day.
The fiercely cold St. Petersburg winter forces Akaky to consider the purchase of a new overcoat, since his old coat has worn to complete transparency and is useless. The tailor, Petrovich, suggests the possibility of owning a splendid new coat with a “catskin collar that could pass for marten.” After months of the most sacrificing parsimony (so many months, in fact, that it would have been summer and the coat not needed, but Gogol’s narrative logic is not fazed by this fact), Akaky saves the needed eighty rubles to buy the coat. He immediately wears it to work and basks for the first time in the admiration of his coworkers. One of them even invites Akaky to a birthday party. On the way home after the party, a group of “people with moustaches,” one of whom had a “fist the size of a civil servant’s head,” accosts him and strips him of his new coat.
Akaky knows that seeking redress for such a crime from the police...
(The entire section is 635 words.)