(Drama for Students)

Russian Bureaucracy
As was readily apparent to Gogol's contemporaries, The Government Inspector is a satire of the extensive bureaucracy of nineteenth-century Russian government. According to D. J. Campbell, writing in the forward to the The Government Inspector, Gogol once stated that ‘‘In The Government Inspector I tried to gather in one heap all that was bad in Russia.’’ Through the regular practices of ‘‘bribery and extortion,’’ according to Beresford in his introduction to Gogol's The Government Inspector: A Comedy in Five Acts, most public officials ‘‘tyrannized over the local population’’ of Russian towns. Beresford goes on to characterize Russia under the yoke of this vast bureaucratic system: ‘‘The whole of this immense empire was strangled by red tape, cramped by administrative fetters, and oppressed by a monstrous tyranny of paper over people.’’ Nigel Brown in his Notes on Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector states that, in The Government Inspector, ‘‘Gogol was the first Russian writer to examine the realities of the official world in literature, exposing it to hilarious satire.’’ In Gogol's play, Hlestakov, the young man mistaken for the government inspector, belongs to the lowest of fourteen possible levels within the hierarchy of the Russian civil service. The fact that he successfully poses as a public official occupying a much higher level in the bureaucracy thus demonstrates both the ignorance of the townspeople he has duped, and his own sense of self-importance. The chaotic atmosphere of the office of the governor in the opening scene...

(The entire section is 686 words.)