Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 612
Provincial capital. Unnamed Russian city in which the novel opens with Chichikov’s arrival. The city serves as the base from which he makes a series of trips into the countryside to visit local landowners. Nikolai Gogol’s descriptions of the town, with its poor sidewalks, unimpressive architecture, and sparse vegetation, highlight the pretentiousness of its officials and merchants, as readers may contrast the essential meagerness and inanity of the physical locale with the exaggerated claims made about the site in official plaques and shop signs.
Manilovka (mahn-eh-LOHV-kah). First estate that Chichikov visits. Manilovka is distinguished by a striking lack of vegetation and a superfluous pavilion called the Temple of Solitary Meditation. Its unimpressive landscape reflects the personality of its owner, Manilov, a bland and colorless person who is given to idle and useless dreaming.
Sobakevich estate (soh-BAH-keh-vihch). Everything at the Sobakevich estate echoes the physique and mind of its owner, Sobakevich, a man described as looking remarkably like a bear and who evinces a powerful, authoritarian attitude toward his surroundings. His house is solidly built, somewhat like a military fort, and all its furnishings seem to call out with their heavy construction that they, too, are part and parcel of their owner’s personality.
Korobochka estate (koh-roh-BACH-kah). Home of the widow Korobochka, a defensive, fearful woman. The layout of her estate reflects these qualities. The estate is surrounded by fences, and a sea of mud that may be the debased equivalent of a moat. The name “Korobochka” is derived from the word for “box,” and the widow’s penchant for mindless acquisition and retention is mirrored in the behavior of one of the sows on her estate: As the animal feeds on a pile of garbage in the yard it consumes a baby chick without even noticing it.
Pliushkin estate (plee-EWSH-kihn). Home of the miser Pliushkin, whom Gogol describes as embodying the horrifying effect that age and isolation can have on humans. He is a desiccated, grasping man, and the rampant decay apparent on his estate offers direct evidence of its owner’s withdrawal from life. A distinctive feature of this estate is its overgrown garden, in which a battle between the engulfing forces of nature and the planned designs of humans is played out. The haphazard intermingling of the natural and the artificial carries a strange beauty that may be emblematic of Gogol’s own art.
Nozdryov estate (NOHZ-dryof). Home of the gambler and liar Nozdryov, who is the most threatening person Chichikov meets during his travels. The decorations of Nozdryov’s home display its owner’s militaristic inclinations. Nozdryov shows his guests a collection of daggers, guns, and swords. His penchant for hyperbole and exaggeration shows up when he gives Chichikov a tour of the estate: As he approaches the boundary of his land, he boasts that all the land on his side of the boundary belongs to him and that all the land on the other side belongs to him as well.
The road. The theme of the road itself is one of the most important in the novel. Chichikov uses the road to make his visits to landowners, but more important, it offers him a means of escape when his dubious scheme to get rich is exposed. The narrator of the novel praises the road and the possibilities for new adventures that it implies. One senses that for Gogol too, the lure of the road, of movement, provided an attractive alternative to the prospects of stasis and decay which he evoked in many of his descriptions of the places and people visited by Chichikov.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 262
Fanger, Donald. The Creation of Nikolai Gogol. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979. An interesting consideration of the relationship between Gogol and his readers. Evaluates Gogol’s commentary on literature within his texts and explores the road as the dominant metaphor of Dead Souls.
Gippius, V. V. Gogol. Edited and translated by Robert Maguire. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1981. This classic treatment of Gogol’s life and works is enhanced by glosses on contemporary figures. The book treats Gogol’s literary influences in detail. The chapter on Dead Souls considers the structure of the novel as a gallery of caricatures and explores Gogol’s reformulation of the picaresque novel.
Griffiths, Frederick, and Stanley Rabinowitz. Gogol, Dostoevsky, and National Narrative. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1990. Places Gogol’s work within the framework of the epic tradition. Evaluates stylistic aspects of the text, such as Homeric similes and hyperbole, that create the mock-heroic mood of Dead Souls.
Maguire, Robert, ed. and trans. Gogol from the Twentieth Century. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974. A collection of well-known Russian essays. These varied approaches to Gogol’s work include a consideration of Gogol as a realist depicting provincial life, a psychoanalytic evaluation of his prose, and a stylistic analysis of his wordplay. The introduction provides a thorough overview of the criticism.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Nikolai Gogol. Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1944. The clever tone of Nabokov’s book mirrors that of Gogol’s prose. While the stylistic analysis is eclectic and brilliant, the primary focus is on banality. Gogol’s genius is his attention to the absurd in everyday life.