Is there anyway that Akaky could have avoided death in "The Overcoat"? What might have happened if he never had his coat stolen? What if he never bought the coat at all?

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In "The Overcoat," Akaky Akayevitch's greatest downfall is his meekness, or inability to become something. Even after working so hard to earn his precious overcoat, he remains unable to truly enter in to the social world that his overcoat would permit him. In that line of thinking, it is plausible to think that even if Akaky had not had his coat stolen, he would have died, though it takes some details from the text to be sure.

In the world of "The Overcoat," status is important, and as Akaky is thought to "have been born as copying respect at all was shown to him in the department." Akaky is fine to live with no respect ("he behaved as if there were no one there"), and clings to his impoverished life. The coat alone has no real power to help him improve his status and instead makes him more dependent on the thought of new fulfillment ("his whole existence had in a sense become fuller, as though he had married"). Consider how Akaky retreats into himself during the part after he has his new coat; had his coat not been stolen, it is likely that he would continue to live this way ("He simply did not know how to behave").

It is very likely that even if Akaky had not even bought the new coat he would still be left to live the same way:

He stopped very awkwardly in the middle of the room, looking about and truing this think what to [his colleagues] all went at once into the entry and again took a look at his overcoat...Then of course they they all abandoned him and his coat, and turned their attention.

This inability in himself to form connections and feel secure in his identity is truly what kills Akaky in the end. Note the "spirit" in the end who seems to avenge Akaky's death could, in fact, be representative of all those who lived in obscurity the way Akaky does. While the coat brings to him a glimpse of the social life he could have, Akaky does not have it in himself to live like others, which, in the harsh Russian weather, naturally leads to death.

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