What do you consider to be the perfect ending for Gogol's "The Nose?"   

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dashing-danny-dillinger eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Personally, I really enjoy Nikolai Gogol’s ending to his absurd short story “The Nose,” and I am not sure the story could be ended in a more satisfactory way. Some readers may be frustrated by the ambiguous nature of the ending and the narrator’s apparent inability to properly tell the story, but I find that these elements contribute to the surreal world that Gogol constructs. The narrative does not give a proper reason as to why the nose disappeared to begin with, where it went, or why it mysteriously reappeared on Kovalev’s face. Indeed, the narrator acknowledges the absurdity of the situation:

“Perfect nonsense goes on in the world. Sometimes there is no plausibility at all: suddenly, as if nothing was wrong, that same nose which had driven about in the rank of state councillor and made such a stir in town was back in place-- that is, precisely between the two cheeks of Major Kovalev” (323).

After the Kovalev’s story has been wrapped up, the narrator again digresses and discusses the absurdity of the story. The narrator calls into question the validity of what readers have just experienced, and notes that the story is utter “nonsense:”

“Only now, on overall reflection, we can see that there is much of he implausible in it. To say nothing of the strangeness of the supernatural detachment of the nose and its appearance in various places in the guise of a state councillor.... No, that I just do not understand, I decidedly do not understand! But what is strangest, what is most incomprehensible of all is how authors can choose such subjects... I confess, that is utterly inconceivable, it is simply... no, no, I utterly fail to understand” (325).

With the narrator's reliance on ellipses, readers can see that the events have left the narrator at a loss for words. Again, while these elements may detract from the story for some readers, I argue that they are essential in understanding the text for what it is: a farcical fairy tale set in modern-day St. Petersburg and narrated by an individual so far removed from the action that the story is immediately questionable. I find the ambiguity and absurdity of the ending to be hugely satisfying, and would be disappointed if the events were given a tangible reason rooted in reality.

I pulled my textual support from The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Read the study guide:
The Nose

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