What are some moral issues in the story and how are they resolved?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first sense we get that the story is a moral allegory is the title, which for the Russian orthodox reader invokes the Biblical story of Joseph's "coat of many colours`that simultaneously marks out Joseph and one who will be both favoured and persecuted.

The story shows how people become dehumanized in a bureaucratic environment. Akaky, though himself mistreated, has internalized the ethos of the bureaucrat and has no real connections with other people. Although his sufferings arouse our sympathy, they do not have a transformative function on himself or the other characters in the story, except for the one young clerk, who, new to the soul-deadening environment of bureaucratic life, becomes sympathetically aware. In the fantastic section after his death, Akaky`s ghost becomes evil and vengeful, rather than redemptively transformed.

This suggests that society itself must provide preconditions for moral agency. Suffering in bureaucratic society leads to a sort of leaden endurance rather than the trust in and salvation by God one sees in the original Biblical story.

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The Overcoat

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