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Mediocrity of Akakiy Akakievitch

Updated on September 21, 2012
Nikolai Gogol author of "The Overcoat"
Nikolai Gogol author of "The Overcoat" | Source

Our society is one which is obsessed with material objects. When the latest iPhone comes out, it seems like every person alive has to have it. Nikolai Gogol wrote about an individual who embodied the idea of materialism and how it can change a person in his story, “The Overcoat”. Akakiy Akakievitch, the main character of the story, was that person. In the beginning of the story, he could be described as indifferent about everything in his life but content. Nothing in his life seemed to arouse or depress him, and many would argue that he simply existed. However when he finds out that he needs a new overcoat because of the atrocious state of his old one, he gets carried away and his character changes. In essence, Akakiy Akakievitch’s change exemplifies how materialistic objects can change a person’s character.
Akakiy Akakievitch’s life was very mundane; however he felt a sense of security in his life’s predictability. From the very beginning, his life was destined to be mediocre when his mom simply named him after his father: ‘“Now I see,” said the old women, “that it is plainly fate. And since such is the case, it will be better to name him after his father”’(Gogol) The fact that his mother was not able to choose from any other name but his father’s shows that Gogol was not very important and so it would be natural for his life to follow the same pattern. This pattern does in fact continue into his adult life and is expressed in his job as a copyist. His job was simply to copy documents, and he found solace in this task: “It would be difficult to find another man who lived so entirely for his duties.”(Gogol) Gogol shows how Akakiy found security and therefore solace in his job. Akakiy had no problem with the job which he had. It gave him a sense of security but at the price of a mundane existence. Akakiy’s character, however, would soon change because of a material object and for at least a while he would lead a much different life.
Akakiy’s character and life changes because of the purchase of a material object. Akakiy’s mere income would not allow him to splurge on anything which was unnecessary. However, after Akakiy is told that his overcoat is unrepairable and that he must pay for a new one, Akakiy becomes distraught. He can’t bear to even think of the idea of paying so large an amount of money for just a new coat. After thoughtful consideration, however, Akakiy becomes almost obsessed with the planning of his new coat. His character becomes much more different, and he begins to acquire a brighter character as the story explains, “by bearing in mind the idea of his future coat... He became more lively, and even his character grew firmer”(Gogol) This shows how Akakiy’s character changes by just the thought of his new overcoat. He begins to have a promising outlook on his future, one that is much more exciting and prosperous. Akakiy goes from living a mundane existence to a happy and jolly life. When Akakiy finally receives his new overcoat his character changes even more.

Before Akakiy received his new coat he was never socially active and he certainly wasn’t vain, but after he acquired his overcoat he did in fact become these things. Akakiy became socially active and he began to do things which he would otherwise not have done. When invited to a social gathering by a coworker, he accepted only because of the notion that he would be able to wear his coat: “Akakiy Akakievitch would have declined, but all declared that it was discourteous... the notion became pleasant to him when he recollected that he should thereby have a chance of wearing his new cloak”(Gogol) Thus, this shows how the coat was able to change Akakiy’s character and make him look almost conceited. The only reason why he wanted to go to the gathering was that he would be able to show off his new coat. Before buying his new overcoat, Akakiy would have never gone out of his home for any reason other than necessity let alone a social gathering. Even though Akakiy’s character turned as bad as it did with possession of his new coat, his character became worse after loosing it.

Akakiy’s character became one of revenge and anger toward humanity for not helping him after his coat was stolen. When Akakiy lost the coat, it seemed as though the coat took his will to live with it, and he subsequently died. After dieing he was resurrected as his original self, someone who almost no one could see because of their mundane existence except that this time it was in the form of a ghost. His character became revengeful, and he terrorized people for not helping him recover his overcoat. This change in his character is evident in the story when it is explained that he began to steal the coats of the living: “Constant complaints poured in from all quarters that the backs and shoulders, not only of titular but even court councillors, were exposed to the danger of a cold on account of the frequent dragging off of their cloaks”(Gogol) Akakiy forms a revengeful character because of the loss of his overcoat, he begins to take the coats of the people who refused to help him recover his coat. This change in his character was also brought about by the overcoat, a materialistic object. The overcoat has a profound impact on the character of Akakiy Akakievitch, he becomes someone who is almost a complete opposite of his previous mundane and indifferent character. Akakiy becomes revengeful because of the overcoat.

The overcoat which changes Akakiy’s character is a material object. This material object was able to change his character in a dramatic way. He goes from an indifferent existence to a revengeful terror inducing existence and all of it because of a simple overcoat. “The Overcoat” shows how materialism can change a person and make them into something that they are really not. Society is becoming more materialistic now more than ever and “The Overcoat” can be used to show that materialism and objects have a profound and negative impact on a person. “The Overcoat” should be used as a warning to society. It should give society a reason to discontinue or even just ween off of its obsession with material objects, because a revengeful society is one which cannot survive.


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