In one of the bureaus of the government, there works a clerk named Akakii Akakiievich Bashmachkin. He is a short, pockmarked man with dim, watery eyes and reddish hair beginning to show spots of baldness. His grade in the service is that of perpetual titular councilor, a resounding title for his humble clerkship. He had been in the bureau for so many years that no one remembered when he had entered it or who had appointed him to the post. Directors and other officials come and go, but Akakii Akakiievich is always seen in the same place, in the same position, doing the same work: copying documents. No one ever treats him with respect. His superiors regard him with disdain, and his fellow clerks make him the butt of their rude jokes and horseplay.
Akakii Akakiievich lives only for his work, without thought for pleasure or his dress. His frock coat is no longer the prescribed green but a faded rusty color. Usually it has sticking to it wisps of hay or thread or bits of litter someone had thrown into the street as he was passing by, for he walks to and from work in complete oblivion of his surroundings. Reaching home, he gulps his cabbage soup and perhaps a bit of beef, in a hurry to begin transcribing papers he brings home from the office. He goes to bed soon after his labors are finished. Such is the life of Akakii Akakiievich, satisfied with his pittance of four hundred rubles a year.
Even clerks on four hundred a year, however, must protect themselves against the harsh cold of northern winters. Akakii Akakiievich owns an overcoat so old and threadbare that over the back and shoulders one can see through the material to the torn lining beneath. At last he decides to take the overcoat to Petrovich, a tailor who does a large business repairing the garments of petty bureaucrats. Petrovich shakes his head over the worn overcoat and announces that it is beyond mending, fit only for footcloths. For one hundred and fifty rubles, he says, he will make Akakii Akakiievich a new overcoat, but he will not touch the old one.
When he leaves the tailor’s shop, the clerk is in a sad predicament. He has no money for an overcoat and little prospect of raising so large a sum. Walking blindly down the street, he fails to notice the sooty chimney sweep who jostles him, blacking one shoulder, or the lime that falls on him from a building under construction. The next Sunday, he sees Petrovich again and begs the tailor to mend his old garment. The tailor surlily refuses. Then Akakii Akakiievich realizes that he must yield to the inevitable. He knows that Petrovich will do the work for eighty rubles. Half of that amount he could pay with money he saved, one kopeck at a time, over a period of years. Perhaps in another year he could put aside a like amount by doing without tea and candles at night and by walking as carefully as possible to save his shoe leather....
(The entire section is 1174 words.)