The overcoat in Gogol's "The Overcoat" represents the human condition that society offers him Akakiy Akakievitch as he suffers from the lack of compassion and a parallel lack of warm overcoat. In a complex construction of ideas, Akakiy Akakievitch struggles to find both compassion and a new overcoat. When he does achieve half his struggle and has the new coat in his possession, his society shows that achieving compassion is an even more difficult struggle.
No respect was shown him in the department. The porter not only did not rise from his seat when he passed, but never even glanced at him, any more than if a fly had flown through ... The young officials laughed at and made fun of him ....
His overcoat is callously taken from him; the "district chief," and the "prominent personage," have no time or effort to offer Akakiy so he might try to get his coat back.
The watchman replied that he had seen two men stop him in the middle of the square, but supposed that they were friends of his; and that, instead of scolding vainly, he had better go to the police on the morrow .... “What, what, what!” said the important personage. “Where did you get such courage? Where did you get such ideas?"
In the final analysis, in more specific terms, the overcoat represents Akakiy Akakievitch's basic human needs--for a coat and compassion--and simultaneously the various mechanisms by which human needs are not met.