The Cloak, The Overcoat
'The Cloak, The Overcoat' Summary
The story narrates the life and death of titular councillor Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin (Russian: Акакий Акакиевич Башмачкин), an impoverished government clerk and copyist in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. Although Akaky is dedicated to his job, he is little recognized in his department for his hard work. Instead, the younger clerks tease him and attempt to distract him whenever they can. His threadbare overcoat is often the butt of their jokes. Akaky decides it is necessary to have the coat repaired, so he takes it to his tailor, Petrovich, who declares the coat irreparable, telling Akaky he must buy a new overcoat.
The cost of a new overcoat is beyond Akaky's meager salary, so he forces himself to live within a strict budget to save sufficient money to buy the new overcoat. Meanwhile, he and Petrovich frequently meet to discuss the style of the new coat. During that time, Akaky's zeal for copying is replaced with excitement about his new overcoat, to the point that he thinks of little else. Finally, with the addition of an unexpectedly large holiday salary bonus, Akaky has saved enough money to buy a new overcoat.
Akaky and Petrovich go to the shops in St. Petersburg and pick the finest materials they can afford (marten fur was too expensive, so they use cat fur for the collar). The new coat is of impressively good quality and appearance and is the talk of Akaky's office on the day he arrives wearing it. His superior decides to host a party honoring the new overcoat, at which the habitually solitary Akaky is out of place; after the party, Akaky goes home, far later than he normally would. En route home, two ruffians confront him, take his coat, kick him down, and leave him in the snow.
Akaky finds no help from the authorities in recovering his lost overcoat. Finally, on the advice of another clerk in his department, he asks for help from an "important personage" (Russian: значительное лицо), a general recently promoted to his position who belittles and shouts at his subordinates to solidify his self-importance. After keeping Akaky waiting, the general demands of him exactly why he has brought so trivial a matter to him, personally, and not presented it to his secretary. Socially inept Akaky makes an unflattering remark concerning departmental secretaries, provoking so powerful a scolding from the general that he nearly faints and must be led from the general's office. Soon afterward, Akaky falls deathly ill with fever. In his last hours, he is delirious, imagining himself again sitting before the general; at first, Akaky pleads forgiveness, but as his death nears, he curses the general.
Soon, a corpse, identified as Akaky's ghost, haunts areas of St. Petersburg, taking overcoats from people; the police are finding it difficult to capture him. Finally, Akaky's ghost catches up with the general—who, since Akaky's death, had begun to feel guilt over having mistreated him—and takes his overcoat, frightening him terribly; satisfied, Akaky is not seen again. The narrator ends his narration with the account of another ghost seen in another part of the city. This other ghost meets the description of one of the ruffians.
Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol was a Russian novelist, short story writer and playwright of Ukrainian origin. Gogol was one of the first to use the techniques of surrealism and the grotesque in his works...More on Nikolai Gogol
- Select Speed
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
"Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" is a short story by the American writer Herman Melville, first serialized anonymously in two parts i...
The Monkey's Paw by W. W. Jacobs
"The Monkey's Paw" is a supernatural short story by author W. W. Jacobs, first published in England in the collection The Lady of the Barge in 1902. I...
Prelude by Katherine Mansfield
Prelude is a short story by Katherine Mansfield. It was first published by the Hogarth Press in July 1918, after Virginia Woolf encouraged her to fini...
A Dog's Tale by Mark Twain
"A Dog's Tale" is a short story written by Mark Twain. It first appeared in the December 1903 issue of Harper's Magazine. In January of the following...
Waifs and Strays by O. Henry
These 12 O. Henry stories all deal with waifs and strays in one way or another; people who have somehow become adrift in the current of life. Will the...
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by Montague R. James
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary is a horror short story collection by British writer M. R. James, published in 1904 (some had previously appeared in m...
Red Shadows by Robert Ervin Howard
Red Shadows is the first of a series of stories featuring Howard’s puritan avenger, Solomon Kane. Kane tracks his prey over land and sea, enters the j...
Bernice Bobs Her Hair by F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was first published in May 1920 in the Saturday Evening Post. The original publica...
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is an 1865 short story by Mark Twain. It was his first great success as a writer and brought him nat...
Collaboration by Henry James
It is Paris sometime after the Franco-Prussian War. A French poet and a German composer come to admire one another's work and decide to collaborate on...
Reviews for The Cloak, The Overcoat
No reviews posted or approved, yet...