Digression in Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls Essay

Digression in Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls Essay

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Nikolai Gogol's masterpiece novel, Dead Souls, remains faithful to the Gogolian tradition in terms of absurdity, lavish detail, and abundant digressions. Although these three literary techniques coexist, interact, and augment each other-the focus of this analysis is to examine how Gogol (or the narrator) deviates from the plotline, the significance of it, and what aesthetic purpose comes from the digression.

Although Gogol's marriage to elaboration is at times strenuous-in fact, it is the underlying reason why impatient readers dislike his work-it serves as a function of tone. The author's excruciating amount of detail is a quirk of the narrator. "They turn up when least expected, and by means of their complete departure from the them, they produce a skillful retardation in the flow of the narrative (Setchkarev, 190)." Considering other characters and situations from the Gogolian tradition, it is not unusual that the author/narrator's voice is somewhat like that of a madman. The syntax and attention to detail in the following passage from Dead Souls is exemplary of Gogol's eccentric style and tone:

"As soon as the lady agreeable in all respects learnt of the arrival of the agreeable lady, she at once came running into the hall. The ladies clutched each other by the hands, exchanged kisses and cried out as do girls from a boarding-school who happen to meet soon after their schooldays are over but before their mothers have had time to explain to them that the father of one is poorer and of lower rank than that of the other. The kisses had a smack to them and made the dogs bark again, and for this they were spanked with a handkerchief (192)."

Arguably, the inclusion of the sound of kisses and the barking of the dog...

... middle of paper ...

...ry Russian Literature. Having such signature literary techniques also makes him either easily loved or hated by audiences. Regardless of whether the reader enjoys Dead Souls, Gogol's digressions create an intended tone, aestheticism, humor, intimate narration, social criticism, and entertainment.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Gogol, Nikolai. Dead Souls. 1842. Trans. George Reavey. Ed. George Gibian. New
York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1985.

Jones, Malcolm V. and Robin Feuer Miller, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Classic
Russian Novel. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.

Popkin, Cathy. The Pragmatics of Insignificance. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993.

Setchkarev, Vsevolod. Gogol: His Life and Works. Trans. Robert Kramer. New York:
New York UP, 1965.

Woodward, James B. The Symbolic Art of Gogol. Columbus: Slavica Publishers, Inc.,

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