Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Provincial Russia

*Provincial Russia. At the heart of Gogol’s satire is the inefficiency and corruption in Russia’s rural provinces, due in large part to the central government’s inability to maintain control from a distance. Setting the play in an unnamed rural village allows Gogol to illustrate this point by providing an intimate portrait of these two opposing forces, the central bureaucracy and its minor rural officials.

Antonovich’s house

Antonovich’s house. With the exception of act 2, the play is set entirely in one room of Anton Antonovich’s house. Gogol’s notes direct the play’s actors to “pay particular attention to the last scene. The last speech should produce upon all a sudden electric shock.” The frantic meetings held in this room, culminate in act 5 with the explosive news that the real inspector has arrived.


Inn. The second act is set in a small room in the town’s inn, where Hlestakov and his servant Osip quarrel with the proprietor, trying to get him to extend them further credit. The small, untidy room provides a catalyst for the sustained confusion of identities at the center of the plot. Hlestakov’s impoverished circumstances should indicate that he is little more than a petty con man. In his paranoia, however, Antonovich sees only a cleverly conceived disguise. The more ridiculous Hlestakov’s behavior, set against the squalor of the room, the more convinced Antonovich becomes that he is the inspector.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Under the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, Russian writers suffered extremely strict censorship of all written...

(The entire section is 485 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Russian Realism and Dramatic Comedy
Gogol has often been dubbed the ‘‘father of Russian realism.’’ The...

(The entire section is 756 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

  • 1825-1855: The reign of Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855) as Emperor of Russia is characterized by extreme repression and...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

  • Gogol lived and wrote in Russia during the first half of the nineteenth century. Learn more about the history of Russia in the nineteenth...

(The entire section is 194 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

The Government Inspector was adapted to the screen in a 1949 American film entitled The Inspector...

(The entire section is 31 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

  • ‘‘The Nose’’ (1836) is one of Gogol's best known short stories. It concerns a man whose nose has left his face and taken up an...

(The entire section is 270 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Adams, Amy Singleton. Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 198: Russian...

(The entire section is 286 words.)


(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Brown, Nigel. Notes on Nikolai Gogol’s “The Government Inspector.” Nairobi, Kenya: Heinemann Educational Books, 1974. The only book devoted entirely to a discussion of The Inspector General. Provides a broad overview of previous criticism and offers detailed consideration of characters, with particular attention devoted to Khlestakov.

Fanger, Donald. The Creation of Nikolai Gogol. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979. Considers the relationship between Gogol and his audience. Evaluates Gogol’s comic theory and his efforts at staging and self-interpretation.

Gippius, V. V. Gogol. Translated by Robert Maguire. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1989. Classic treatment of Gogol’s life and works. The chapter on The Inspector General analyzes the play’s structure and presents Gogol’s play as the beginning of social comedy with a serious purpose in Russia.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Nikolai Gogol. New York: New Directions, 1944. The clever tone of Nabokov’s book mirrors that of Gogol’s prose. The stylistic analysis is brilliant. Focuses on the theme of banality, with Khlestakov as one of its primary representatives. Points out Gogol’s genius in his attention to the absurd in everyday life.

Peace, Richard. The Enigma of Gogol: An Examination of the Writings of N. V. Gogol and Their Place in the Russian Literary Tradition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Evaluates the plot, characters, and structure of the play within the larger framework of the Russian tradition. Develops the theme of individual and social identity.