Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 251
The main character in "The Diary of a Madman" is Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin, a minor civil servant in Russia in the nineteenth century. He is deeply in love with his employer’s daughter, but she barely notices him. Poprishchin descends into madness fairly quickly in the story and begins to have an inflated feeling of self-worth, eventually believing himself to be the rightful King of Spain. He loses his grip on reality and time as he starts to write about living in the year 2000. His delusion causes him to take drastic steps, such as making a royal outfit by hand to show the civilians his royal status.
Sophie is the daughter of Poprishchin’s boss, and Poprishchin is deeply in love with her. Poprishchin describes her as exceedingly beautiful and says that the first time he laid eyes on her, she descended from her carriage as gracefully and beautifully as a bird. Unfortunately, Sophie hardly recognizes Poprishchin and is therefore entirely unconcerned by him. Her distant attitude towards him causes Poprishchin to retreat into his own mind and grow further deranged. She eventually is engaged to another man, who is not seen in the story.
The dogs are interesting characters in this work. Typically, they are not sentient individuals, but as Poprishchin descends further into madness, he believes he discovers how to communicate with them and intercepts what he believes are letters between the two of them. They are surprisingly refined and discuss the ideas of canine nature and “dogginess.”