Nikolai V. Gogol Revisited

Warning: Spoiler below

The jury (of one) is in: Nikolai Gogol does not constitute escapist reading.

Yes, it is masterfully written; yes, it is scathing social satire and it can make you laugh. But as far as I (the jury) am concerned, none of this compensates for the basic cruelty underlying the story.

I simply couldn't bear to continue reading it.

After everything Arkady Arkakievich went through to acquire this precious warm coat, he is assaulted, his coat is stolen, he's bullied and humiliated by the authorities, and then he catches pneumonia and dies! My heart simply aches for him. I refuse to continue reading. I am told that his ghost continues to haunt other characters in the story. Serves them right. But a ghost's revenge is not good enough for me.

Maybe some day I'll feel strong enough to read the entire story and enjoy it for its pure literary merits plus social/philosophical commentary or what-have-you. But for now, Gogol is being banished to a shelf with Chekhov. He, too, breaks my heart with his stories, and I refuse to read any more of them until further notice.


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