In paragraph 1 of "The Overcoat," Gogol describes behavior that “is customary amongst well- bred officials.” How is this description important to the passage?

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These words come from early on in Gogol's short story "The Overcoat". They are part of a passage that refers to how the protagonist of the story, a humble clerk by the name of Akaky Akakievich Basmachkin, is treated by his superiors. Instead of acting towards him like the well-bred officials they're supposed to be, they simply shove papers under his nose without saying anything, expecting Akaky to copy them without question.

Normally, one could expect them to say "Copy" or "Here's a nice, interesting affair", but they don't. They simply hand Akaky the work and expect him to get on with it. The reference to how "well-bred officials" normally behave is important as it highlights the effect that Akaky seems to have on them, how his very presence causes them to abandon their normally impeccable manners.

It's clear that Akaky's superiors take his work for granted. Not only that, but they don't respect him at all. There's something about Akaky that makes his superiors—and everyone else in the office, come to that—feel that they don't have to treat him like a normal human being. Towards other people, especially those above them in the civil service pecking order, they probably behave with the utmost courtesy. But with Akaky, it's a different matter entirely. He somehow brings out the worst in them.

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