Dead Souls, vol. I (1842)
3-6) Opening Moments: QUOTE
The inn where Chichikov will stay is familiar to all travelers in the Russian provinces: with cockroaches and eavesdroppers behind interior doors, which have wooden trunks and chests shoved in front of them. Shops line the front façade of the building selling horse collars, ropes and pretzels, and in the end corner shop stands a seller of hot punch who is indistinguishable from his copper red samovar standing next to him.
the lackey, (his overcoat carries a terrible stench) and Selifan, the
carry in the master’s luggage: a trunk
and a curious small mahogany chest inlaid with Karelian birch. (QUOTE) Petrushka crawls into his closet and closes the door.
The common rooms of the inn are similarly known to every traveler: greasy walls, smoky ceilings, sooty chandeliers that jangle, tea cups ready to fly off trays like birds, a painting of a nymph with enormous breasts behind the bar.
The gentleman, still unidentified, enters the dining area, wearing a rainbow hued scarf. He proceeds to politely question the waiter about all the local nobles and merchants and quickly obtains the low down on every important person in town. He is particularly interested in the landowners. He also inquires about whether there have been any epidemics in the province recently. He finallyidentifies himself with his card: “Collegiate Councilor Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, landowner, in private business. (Chichikov: His name in Russian sounds like birds chirping or scissors snipping; it is a flighty and frivolous name for such a plump and practical person.)
7-8) After stuffing himself full of 'cabbage soup with puff pastries, brains and peas, sausages and cabbage, roast poulard , pickles and eternal sweet puff pastries', Chichikov decides to stroll
the streets, taking in the town. It is, of course, an
utterly typical provincial town:
(pp. 8-9) Chichikov takes himself directly to the governor’s office where he introduces himself. The governor greets him decked out in his medals. (In passing we learn that the governor enjoys doing embroidery!) Chichikov also visits the governor, the vice governor, the prosecutor, the head magistrate, the police chief, the tax farmer, the superintendent of factories, the head of the board of health, and the town architect. Everywhere he goes, he flatters each and every official, even mistakenly using the higher form of address, saying ‘Your Excellency’ even when there is no call.
Chichikov refers to himself as an insignificant worm, hardened by fate, and with many enemies. When he is surprised or excited he will frequently exclaim, "The Devil knows!" (He mentions that he has even considered suicide! How fashionable and mysterious!) He is promptly invited to the governor’s party that night.
Before heading to the party Chichikov spends hours in front of his mirro, rubbing his plump face with soap, then buffing his fat cheeks so that the skin shines. He plucks nose hairs from his nostrils, and then dons a cranberry-olored tailcoat with flecks. (10)
(pp. 10- 12) The governor’s mansion is lit up for the ball. There are carriages with lanterns, gendarmes, postilions, and candles. Ladies flit about in gowns, and men in formal attire flit about them like flies feeding on a gleaming white sugarloaf. (QUOTE p. 10) (See "The Nose")
does not pursue the ladies for dances like the slim ones do. Instead,
he hangs out with the fat ones ‘who know better how to handle affairs
of the world’. He lingers near the card table where the prosecutor and
the post master are playing. They call out ridiculous names for various the suits of various cards.
"Go you old granny!" or "I'll give it to him in the whiskers! The
whiskers!" or "Spadillos! Spadikins! Spadixies!" (The postmaster
utters the most violent
ejaculations at the cards as he gambles.)Chichikov chats with the Head
Magistrate, the affable Manilov, and the clumsy looking Sobakevich.
Chichikov offers around his enameled silver snuffbox which has vilet
blossoms within to scent the snuff.
(pp. 13-16) The next day Chichikov meets with the Police Chief and, at cards that night, with Nozdryev.
By the following day, Chichikov has completed making his first impression by expressing impressive ideas about every topic of interest to the local nobility, which include horse breeding, fine dogs, court cases, billiards, distilling spirits, and customs supervisors.
Chichikov decides to visit the landowners Manilov and Sobakevich.
narrator decides that he is supposed to describe Chichikov’s servants.
He begins with Petrushka, the lackey, who loves to read, or rather
loves the process of reading but could not care less what he is
reading, which he largely ignores. And then there is Petrushka’s
peculiar smell. The narrator begins to describe Selifan, the coachman,
but then decides not to bother. We Russians really only concern
ourselves with people in the ranks just ahead of us. QUOTE 17
Driving out of town in the britzka, ‘all sorts of stuff and nonsense…began scrawling itself along both sides of the road’ (18): villages resembling old stacks of firewood, houses with calves or sows peeking out of the lower windows. QUOTE 18-19
village of Manilovka, the master’s house is dilapidated in the English
style with a scummy pond and more than 200 grey log cottages.
The weather is 'neither bright nor gloomy', the sky's light grey color... like on the uniform of garrison soldiers... unsober on Sundays... " A cock
runs around outside the main house... his head has been pecked right to
the brain by other cocks in the well known business of philandering..."
Manilov, the master himself, greets Chichikov in his green shaloon frockcoat. What is he like? His name means ‘to lure or beckon’. Like everything in Russia, he is hard to describe. “50-50.” His ‘face not lacking in agreeableness… but [with] too much sugar in it.” He offers a good first impression before you feel deadly boredom when he launches into discussion of borzoi hounds, music and hearty meals.. flattering higher ranks, something…” Manilov runs the whole estate by saying, “Yes, not bad,” to every suggestion. He cooks up idiot projects which never get started or if they do, never get completed. The bridge across his pond (with shops), the book left marked at pg. 14, one beautifully re-uphlostered chair, a single beautiful candlestick. QUOTE 21-22 His relationship with his wife is all tidbit presents, sweet sayings, and big kisses. She is educated ala boarding school: sewing, piano and French. (23)
they prepare to go through the front door, Chichikov and Manilov do the old vaudeville
routine: “No, after you.” Manilov describes Chichikov's visit as 'a heart’s
feast' for him. Even Chichikov is slightly sickened by his host’s syrupy solicitude, but he matches Manilov in flowery compliments.
The two move on to salute ad
nauseum not only the local governor but everyone in his administration. “And how well he embroiders." (25)
Manilov waxes philosophical about the joys of friendship, a spiritual delight. He says that he longs for a friend with whom he can share his deep thoughts about life and love. QUOTE 26
begins with inedible cabbage soup. At the table the little boys, Themosticles and Alkides , run their noses and
bite each others’ ears to their tutor's chagrin.
After such repletion, the gentlemen retire to the study, where the windowsills are curiously covered with tobacco ash arranged in rows, from Manilov's chibouk. (29) There Chichikov finally broaches business: how many of his serfs have died since the most recent census? QUOTE 31 The farm’s steward is summoned (his personal biography is skipped: we can conclude that it is typical.) How many dead souls? “Exactly, quite a lot.”
When Maniov hears Chichikov’s proposal to buy his dead peasants, he drops his long stemmed chibouk on the floor. Is he mad? The Devil knows. Chichikov argues that these peasants are not alive in reality. They are alive ‘with respect to the legal form.’ Manilov begins sucking so hard on the chibouk that it begins wheezing like a bassoon. But Chichikov insists that it is all legal: “I stand mute before the law.”
Manilov has decided to please his new friend by conceding to this
strange request, he refuses to be paid anything. He even demands to pay
all legal fees. Chichikov is ecstatic, ‘nearly leaping like a
goat’. He hurries Manilov along by volunteering to draw up the
Manilov then muses about how nice it would be if Chichikov could move in with him so that they could be friends everyday, but Chichikov insists he must depart. As his new friend rides off, Manilov dreams of spending more time with this most admirable fellow but then is disturbed again by his strange request.
Chichikov rolls away from Manilov’s estate, he agreeably considers
speculations and estimates and smiles contentedly.
Selifan's Universe: Heading for Sobakavitch's estate, Selifan,who is in his cups, gets totally lost because instead of minding the directions, he is talking to his horses and whipping them for 'their pleasure', particularly that dapple grey outrider who is acting like a German pantaloon and refusing to do his duty. Selifan muses about the joys of socializing with 'good' people and winds up in such remote and abstract speculations that he is completely oblivious to a thunderhead which looms before him and then suddenly breaks. [Here we have again Akaky walking down a street, buildings shaped like Cyrillic letters, connected to reality by only the most tenuous string, then stumbling into a horse's face.] In the pouring rain, Selifan tips over the britzka sending Chichikov sprawling in the mud. Chichikov threatens Selifan with a whipping, and Selifan reconciles himself to his fate, “If it’s a whipping, it’s a whipping.” The two take refuge at an estate where dogs howl at them as they pound at the door. An old woman answers their knocking.
(41) QUOTE: Aria on the dogs howling ‘in all possible voices’.
Completely soaked and 'muddy as a hog', Chichikov looks around the room into which he has rushed. It's appearance makes ‘his
eyes feel sticky’: fading striped wall paper, pictures of birds,
with curled frames, a wall clock with flowers painted on the face
(which hisses and wheezes when it decides to strike, sounding like a
pot banged with a stick) … Chichikov is too exhausted to do much snooping, but he looks behind the mirrors,
where he finds a letter, old playing cards and a stocking. (The
mistress has had a candle burning at her icon all night.)
The mistress is described as a 'little dearie', one of those small landowners who fret over losses but save roubles in little bags in a chest which holds an unpicked coat that will later be turned into a dress if the one she is wearing ever wears out. None of her neighbors have more than twenty serfs apiece so Chichikov figures he is deep in the backwater. When asked about Sobakovitch or Manilov, Korobochka says she has never heard of them and therefore doubts they really exist. She is, though, quite hospitable. She orders her serf Fetinya to clean all of Chichikov's clothes, right down to the underwear. Fetinya collects his clothes, brings in a feather bed which leaks feathers all over, and then the mistress offers to rub his back or scratch his feet, but Chichikov demurs. Her name is Korobochka, which means ‘little box’: Nastasya Petrovna Korobochkov, widow of a collegiate secretary.
(44-45) QUOTE The next morning Chichikov awakens in his altogether but covered with flies, one of which he has inhaled into his nose. He sneezes and a turkey cock, outside the window, looks in and starts gobbling at him, probably saying "God Bless you!" Chichikov looks out the window on to the poultry garden and watches as a sow eats one of the chicks while gobbling watermelon rinds. Beyond is a vast kitchen garden with several scarecrows. The peasants’ huts he sees are not dilapidated, and Chichikov concludes, “It’s no little bit of an estate she’s got here.” At least 80 souls! From then on Chichikov addresses Widow Korobochka with respect.
At breakfast, the Widow Korobochka pampers Chichikov. She has even dressed herself up a little, and Chichikov feels comfortable enough to speak quite familiarly with her, which is remarkable because the narrator emphasizes that Russian society is supersensitive to the many gradations of rank within the nobility. (47) ARIA on the Russian art of flattery which forces the speaker to metamorphose as he turns from one rank to address another. A Prometheus can turn instantly into a fly!
(48-51) Talking Business!
The Widow mistakes Chichikov for a tax collector or a buyer, and being
a shrewd manager,
she offers to sell him honey or hemp. (Her farm also produces buckwheat
flour, rye flour, grain and buthchered cattle which the mistress wants
to sell to the government.) Chichikov edges
towards broaching his proposal by asking if she has lost any
souls since the last census, and the old lady complains about paying
bribes to assessors who still tax you on souls even if they are dead.
Why, her blacksmith drank so much that he self-immolated! However, when
Chichikov offers to purchase these dead souls, the Widow Korobochka
simply cannot understand why. She just doesn't get it, but she is sure
that Chichikov must be trying to cheat her. “They’re already
dead.” “Maybe they’d come in handy around the house on occasion…” (51)
“No, no…The bones and graves-- all that stays with you, the transfer is
only on paper.” (written down in words, a contract is abstracted one
level from reality.)
The Widow Korobochka, concrete Russian soul that she is, cannot grasp the idea that business can be conducted much beyond barter (which, of course, rejects a basic notion of capitalism: money has the potential to create profit in and of itself.) Although she keeps no records, she knows everyone on her estate by heart, even the dead ones. The value of dead souls can be likened to the financial commodities that Wall Street brokers have invented in recent years which abstract the value of, say, real estate mortgages to such a degree that a market in 'derivatives' is possible.
(52) Chichikov finally loses his temper. He is so angry that he goes beyond the bounds of all patience and wishes the Devil on her, and the widow is terrified. “Just two nights ago I spent the whole night dreaming about the cursed one… such a nasty one: horns longer than a bull’s.” He tells her to drop dead and then starts lying about how he does government contracting for other farm commodities as well, and the widow gives him a “Why didn’t you say so?” response. She is prepared to sell her dead souls for fifteen roubles. She also thinks she should butter him up with some pancakes.
(53) QUOTE ARIA Chichikov opens his Karelian Birch Chest to get the necessary stamped papers to draw up the contract, and the narrator gives a detailed description of its many drawers, particularly the secret one for money and other essential papers that slides open inconspicuously from the side.
(54) The widow must dictate to him the names of the dead souls on her estate for she keeps no written records: ‘Cow’s Brick’; ‘Pyotr Saviliev Disrespect-Trough’. Once the deal is done, Chichikov chows on mushrooms, pirozkhi, savory dumplings, cheesecakes, pies with onion, poppy seed, cottage cheese, even smelt fillings, short crust pie with eggs, and pancakes slathered in butter. He exits promising to buy all of her farm commodities, lard and bird feathers as well. Of course, he is lying.
(56) ARIA Mrs. Manilova vs. the Widow Korabachka: on the difference between Manilova, the far wealthier Europeanized wife of a landowner, and the Widow Korobochka who is totally concerned with managing the estate. Manilova's face is 'lit by a different light'.
(57) The horses have been well groomed, but Selifan is depressed and won’t chat with them as is his wont. (Instead, the narrator lets us know what Assesor thinks about Selifan's talent for stinging him on the ear or belly.) The girl Pelageya, she with the bare muddy legs, is sent along in the britzka to show them the way to the high road, but she does not know her left from right. Even so, they would not have gotten off the back roads without her. “The roads went crawling in all directions like caught crayfish dumped out of a sack…” Selifan: “Ughh, you black legs!”
Chichikov stops at the tavern on the high road to rest the horses and fortify himself with a snack.
(59) ARIA on the stomach of this sort of middling traveler, not the rich, high sort who sits around in St. Petersburg popping pills before swallowing sea spiders and oysters… No, the middling sort of gentleman who can feast at successive stations on ham, then sturgeon, then baked sausage with onions and then can sit down to a full course dinner when he arrives at home. Many Russians would sacrifice half of their wealth to have such a stomach.
(60) Inside the tavern Chichikov finds the friends one would expect to find in a wooden Russian tavern: hoary samovars, pinewood walls, a triangular corner cupboard with Easter eggs hanging from red and blue ribbons, a cat with kittens, a mirror reflecting four eyes and a pancake face, icons bestrewed with dried out aromatic herbs. “Do you have suckling pig?”
(61) The waitress whom Chichikov questions distinguishes simply between Sobakevich and Manilov. The former eats all of one dish, the latter samples everything.
(62-65) A troika arrives carrying Nozdryev and his son in law Mizhuev. Nozdryev enters and immediately launches into a tirade about losing his whole wad while gambling with officers from a dragoon regiment at the fair. (His name means nozdrya- nostril.) Nozdryev regales Chichikov with his drinking exploits (seventeen bottles of champagne!) and his ‘strawberrying’. He laughs at Chichikov’s plans to visit Sobakevich and insists instead that he come visit his own estate. He orders his lackey Porfiry to bring in the bulldog puppy to show Chichikov.
(68-70) Nozdryev described. He is a rollicksome boon companion who behaves the same at the age of 35 that he did when he was 18: a great carouser who never stops talking. People like him strike up acquaintances quickly, they have a passion for a little game of cards, they cheat and get cheated and then thrash the other fellow or get thrashed, finally making up as if nothing happened. “He lies absolutely without need.” He has a passion for doing dirt to others and then insisting he was just kidding and should still be treated as a friend. He is a compulsive spender, buying whatever he fancies: he has a passion for trading as well: a gun, a dog, a horse, even if he gains nothing from the deal. He just loves the action. “He is among us everywhere.”
(70-71) Nozdryev’s manor is in constant, confused uproar. The house is being painted. No preparations for guests have been made, no food is planned for dinner, and he drags his guests on a muddy tour of the whole estate, bragging (and lying) about everything he sees: bay stallions, wolf cubs, all sorts of dogs, busted water mills, plentiful rabbits, etc.
(73) In his study there are no books, but plenty of sabers, guns, a Turkish dagger incorrectly engraved… and a barrel organ he picked up in some card game which grinds out “Marlborough Went Off to War”.
(74) Dinner is awful- mostly non-stop rounds of port, ho-sauterne, madeira (laced with rum), and rowanberry liqueur (spiked with moonshine). His son-in-law succumbs to the booze and goes home despite Nozdryev’s derision: “You foozle!”
(76-77) Nozdryev tries to talk Chichikov into a little hand of cards, and Chichikov instead makes him his business proposition. Nozdryev insists that Chichikov explain why he wants dead souls. “You want to finger each bit of trash and sniff it besides?” Chichikov evades answering completely: he says he wants 'to acquire weight in society’; he says, “I have a mind to get married." Nozdryev rejects all these explanations as "Lies! Lies!" and suggests hanging Chichikov for his brazen ness
(78-79) Nozdryev refuses to sell unless one of his horses or his dogs or his broken down britzka is thrown into the deal. He even offers his barrel organ.
(81) When Chichikov refuses to play cards with him again, Nozdryev screams, “The hairy devil is what you will get!” He gets up and walks out, and Chichikov realizes that he was mistaken to argue with such a man. This kind of guy could prove a nuisance in the future.
(82-85) The next morning the host appears looking like someone a barber’s signboard would NOT feature. He insists that Chichikov play checkers with him for the dead souls. In the midst of the game Nozdryev gets caught cheating, and when he is called on it, he orders his servants to beat Chichikov.
ARIA on martial fervor of a foolhardy officer with the bit between his teeth, leading his soldiers to a trap where they will be blown into the air like swansdown.
(86-87) An officer arrives just as Nozdryev is about to lay into Chichikov with his cherrywood chibouk. He is put under arrest for beating another local landowner with birch rods, and Chichikov makes a run for it.
Why does Gogol include this episode
at this moment of Chichikov’s adventures?
even stamps on Chichikov's foot, but eventually he agrees to Chichikov's price.
While Sobakevich is drawing up the list, Chichikov muses about this landowner
who would have been the same if he had been raised anywhere, even Petersburg.
His list is perfectly drawn.
Why does Gogol provide us this
anecdote at the beginning of his chapter on Plyushkin?
What is the connection of this
symbolic representation of the estate to Gogol’s characterization of Plyushkin?
Chapter 7 (133-154) Chichikov's Apex
(133-35) ARIA Happy the writer who can conceive of characters that manifest the lofty dignity of man', but Gogol is not such a writer. Instead, it is his destiny to 'call forth all that is before our eyes every moment' and we don't see-- all the 'terrible stupendous mire of trivia'; 'inconspicuous insects'. Lofty ecstatic laughter is worthy too. "I am destined to walk hand in hand with my strange heroes." Vision of coming redemption: a fearsome tempest of inspiration will raise the majestic thunder of a different speech... (Of course, that never happened for Gogol, and he destroyed his talent trying to alter his voice.)
(135-36) Chichikov awakens beaming at the happy thought that he owns nearly 400 souls. He jumps out of bed and doesn't even look at himself in mirror to admire his chinny-chin-chin. He puts on his Scottish bathrobe and his moroccan boots with multi-color applique and dances in Scottish fashion around the room. (kicking his butt with his heel). (Apparently, Chichikov likes to act like a Scotsman only when he is alone in his bedroom.) Eventually, he cavorts to his Kirelian chest, draws up the legal papers himself, and then admires the list of the names of his muzhiks. Each name seems to take on a character of its own from the various ways thay have been written down on paper.
(136-139) Chichikov finds these listed names so gratifying that the muzhiks seem to come to life, and he calls out to them, "My heaven, what did you do in your lives, dear hearts...", and his imagination imbues Pyotr Saveliev Disrespect-Trough and Cork Stepan and Maxim Telyatnikov with new life. He fantasizes about how Grigiry Go-Never-Get! was murdered. And what of Plyushkin's runaway souls... Chichikov spins tales about Popov the house servant eventually confronted by a policeman over his missing passport... or Abakum Fyrov: the boatman carousing on the grain wharf after striking a bargain with the grain merchants.
Gogol's point: the length and breadth of Russia comes to life with all of its diversity and soul!
(140) Chichikov changes out of his Scottish bathrobe and sets out for the government offices to execute the deeds and bring the business to a close as quickly as possible... (before the souls evanesce). Enroute to the government building, he runs into Manilov, and "the kisses were so hard on both sides that both men had an ache in their front teeth for almost the whole day." After holding hands for an interminable pause, Manilov delivers his list of souls on a piece of paper tied with a pink ribbon. The two friends link arm in arm and set off for the court house.
(141-42) The grounds of the big three storey government office have been trashed, fences are covered with graffiti, and the interior hallways are no better. The filthty chancellery room is full of paper, bent heads, tailcoats, frock coats, scraps of short phrases, hoarse voices, and the scratching noise of countless pens which sound like carts loaded with brushwood rolling over dry leaves.
(143-44) The clerks try to give Chichikov the run around, but he already is expert in their tricks and promises each one that dealing with his business promptly will be profitable for all. He drops a banknote on the table of one scribbling clerk, who covers it up quickly, in mid-sentence even.
(144-147) In the Chief Magistrate's office Chichikov is surprised to find Sobakevich already there, behind a zertsalo. (Uh-Oh!) (Zertsalo: The emblem of “law and order” in tsarist Russia that had to stand on the desk in courts and other institutions.) (This is interesting because the last we heard from Sobakevich, he was referring to all the city officials, including the Chief Magistrate as swinmdlers and crooks.) Everyone embraces and loudly kisses one another. They compete in self-effacement and compliments. Chichikov must have the proper witnesses and legal representatives, so the room grows full of sycophants looking for a hand out. His acquisitions are now worth nearly 100,000 roubles, and everyone is duly impressed. Things get a tad dicey for Chichikov when Sobakevich tells the Chief Magistrate to ask Chichikov just what he has been acquiring, but he gets carried away bragging about the peasants he has sold and forgets to remind himself that they are dead.
(148) The magistrate comments on his surprise to discover that Chichikov has not purchased land in the area in addition to acquiring peasants. "Or is it for re-settlement?" "But, of course!" And Chichikov invents an estate with a river and a pond which he has acquired in the Kherson province to which he is moving. A huge crowd of dignitaries and officials arrive to witness the signing of the deeds, and Chichikov is only charged the smallest fee. They conclude the business and then everyone adjourns to the police chief's house to celebrate.
(150-152) The police chief is the 'town benefactor.' He is a wonder worker who lards the table in his house with beluga, sturgeon, salmon, caviar, herring, cheeses, smoked tongue and balyks from the fish market, then there is fish-head pie, pie with mushroom, fritters, dumplings, and honey-stewed fruit. What a police chief! He shakes down the merchants, but he does it so politely and cheerily! After the appetizer, they all go to lunch. There Sobakevich eats a whoe sturgeon as quickly as he can, after which he can only blink and squint. There are innumerable toasts! Chichikov is invited to stay and marry.
QUOTE Chichikov is so happy that he even begins to believe that he is a real Kherson landowner. He begins to recite poetry and then realizes that he is beginning to get 'too loose'.
(153-54) He gets out of there and returns to the inn as his hallucinations grow florid: now he is married to the dimpled blonde. Selifan is ordered to gather all his serfs. He listens silently. As soon as Chichikov is asleep, he and Petrushka wander off to the bar together. They come back blotto. When they pass out, they snore loudly as Chichikov whistles, and QUOTE a lieutenant from Ryazan tries on boots in a room across town.
Chapter 8 (155-179) The Governor's Ball
(155-57) Gossip! he townspeople hear the news of Chichikov's purchases and his plans to move the serfs to the Kherson Province. Everyone weighs in with an opinion about Chichikov's plans. Is it possible to profit from re-settling serfs? They will run away. The serfs sold to him are thieves and drunkards. They will become vagabonds if uprooted from their land. Good stewards are so hard to come by. A riot might break out. Either harsh discipline or patriarchal solicitude will be necessary. Chichikov thanks his friends for thier advice, but he assures them that the peasants he has brought are placid types and riot among them is impossible.
(158) ARIA on the literary pretensions of the kindly townfolk. The Chief Magistrate loves to recite Zhukovsky's 'Lyudmila.' The post master delves into philosophy and likes to 'rig out' his speech. Most of the others are 'slug-a-beds'. They are seemly and use affectionate terms with each other like 'chubsy', 'tubsy', 'zhuzhu' and 'kiki'. And everyone wants to be friends with Chichikov. Particularly, the ladies!
(159) QUOTE The narrator initially finds himself too timid to talk about the ladies of the town, but then somehow he goes on at length about how 'presentable' they are. Their primary concern is keeping up with the fashions from St. Petersburg and Moscow; their lives are full of carriage rides, visiting cards, and the like. They never neglect a visit! But when quarrels arise, they inspire their husbands, not to duel, but instead to do each other dirt whenever possible. They punish any weakness without mercy, but 'this or that' is always overlooked. "It's always fair weather when frineds get together." They observe prudence and propriety by using circumlocutions which abstract behavior out of reality. "This glass is being naughty." They banish most Russian words as too gross for polite conversation, but they give themselves permission to say the coarsest expressions... in French.
(160) They consider Chichikov 'a millionaire'-- a special status inspiring the most egregious flattery even if without hope of corresponding reciprocation. Chichikov's attractiveness inflates. "He is not fat, but if he were any fuller or taller, it would not be so good." His anticipated precense inspires a run on the expensive fabrics at local stores to supplement party dresses. At church, a police inspector has makes sure that no one steps on the huge rouleaus.
(161) One anonymous admirer even writes Chichikov a love letter! "No, I must write to you!" and full of such poetry! Chichikov folds this letter and puts it away in his chest.
(162) Chichikov prepares for the Governor's Ball (!!!) by spending a full hour on his toilette. He practices his bow before the mirror and makes vaguely French sounds (although he knows no French). He is so happy that he performs an entrechat in the air!
(163) His entry at the ball produces quite an effect! He is greeted by all and 'feels himself simultaneously in several embraces'. The governor even drops his puppy and a candy-kiss motto! ARIA on the fake laugh, even if the joke told by the Very Important Person is not fully heard. The ladies surround Chichikov with fragrances. Theihr attire evinces no end of taste: ribbons, bows, bouquets, head dresses, and artfully laced and arranged 'modesties' to accentuate the most alluring details and to hide the actual plump-ness.
(165) Chichikov is nearly overwhelmed by all the feminine pulchritude. "There the province goes scrawling!" He is trying to search out the face of 'the one' who wrote him that letter! Chichikov waxes poetic about the mysterious allure of women and concludes that they are 'the cockety half of mankind'. ARIA: The narrator apologizes profusely for allowing such a street word to enter his tale. It is a wholly Russian word. He then ridicules the ways that Russians throw French, English, and German words into their speech and insist that Russian itself be more refined than it possibly can be.
(167) QUOTE Chichikov's Apotheosis: While continuing his search for the one, he starts mincing with small rapid steps among the ladies, and they find that so charming! That little scrape with his foot he makes in the form of a comma! How majestic he appears!
(168-72) The Tide Turns... Chichikov is so swept up in the moment that he forgets to pay due obeisance to the governor's wife. "So that's how you are!" And when Chichikov turns to greet her, he is stunned to discover her daughter: that 16 yr. old blonde, the same girl he met on the road. He is so abashed that he is unable to say a single word. He tries to think of something witty, but nothing comes out. ARIA: The man who leaves home and then recalls that he has forgotten something but cannot recall what.... Look at his face. The ladies glide by hoping to draw his attention, with that one special feature that men find irresistable, but Chichikov is not biting. He is totally focused on the blonde, working up the courage to go talk to her. Could it be love? Chichikov makes his poetic assault (telling her about all of the fascinating people he has met in his travels), but sadly the blonde does not laugh wildly at his every word. And Chichikov goes on and on and on... She begins to yawn, and all the ladies notice. Some things are unforgivable, and Chichikov's predeliction for the school girl offends them all. What a slut! And him?! It must have been he who made up that tasteless poem about the dancers that I heard earlier!
(173) At this moment Nozdryev emerges form the gaming room and instantly spots Chichikov. He screams, "So, have you bought up a lot of dead ones?" He yells to the Governor, "He deals in dead souls!" And then he tries to kiss Chichikov. Everyone stops. Ladies wink at one another. ARIA on the the inability to resist spreading gossip, even the most obvious and banal lie. Chichikov is non-plussed, and he looks for an excuse to make his exit while Nozdryev starts grabbing at dresses during the dancing.
(176-77) The gaiety continues as an officer offers a lady some sauce on the tip of his bare sword, but Chichikov's night is ruined. He goes home, railing against balls. He wonders why he even cares now that the main business has been properly done. But he is still frustrated and vents his spleen on Nozdryev and all his ancestors.
(177-78) QUOTE Meanwhile, on the other side of town, a strange vehicle, 'a round fat-cheeked watermelon on wheels', stuffed with pillows looking like cheesecakes, dumplings and doughnuts, chicken and mince pie on top, clattered into town. A sleepy sentinel is awakened, raising his halberd briefly, but the rattletrap coach travels on, arriving at the inn to discharge the Widow Korobochka, who has arrived to find out the going rate for dead souls.
Chapter 9 (180-199) Gossip!
Finally, they get around to the main topic: that little charmer, Chichikov. The
Widow Korobochka's horror story has gotten around: it's Chichikov, that Rinaldo
Rinaldini type brigand who descends on defenseless ladies in the middle of the
night to demand that you sell him all your souls! What's it all about? Neither
Anna nor Sofya has the faintest idea, but that doesn't prevent them from
speculating that Chichikov is here... (Sofya pricks up her ears like a hunter
transformed into gun powder (187)) to run off with the governor's daughter! How
insufferably affected that girl is. A statue! A coquette! It simply cannot be
that there were no accomplices. Ha! Nozdryev! That simply must be true (and so
they are convinced, just as scholars are convinced of the truth of their
outlandish theories (190-91))
Chapter 11 (221-253) Chichikov's Flight/ Russia's Destiny
Chichikov's flight from town is delayed because the horses need shoeing, the wheel needs a new tire, and the front end of the britzka is loose. Furthermore, that dapple grey horse needs to be gotten rid of! Chichikov must resort to threatening Selifan and paying six times the going rate to the blacksmiths to get the britzka fixed. (223) Meanwhile, he must wait for hours... and everything about this town becomes loathsome to him ...
Finally, the britzka is fixed, packed and Chichikov is ready to lam it out of there, but just as the carriage begins to roll, their path is blocked by a long funeral procession for the deceased town prosecutor. Chichikov slumps down and fears being discovered, but none of the town officials in the procession can be bothered to even look. They are all totally concerned with their own lives and with their fears at the prospect of a new governor-general for the province.
(225) ARIA QUOTE The road! At last the britzka is on the road! (Comparison of Russia and Rome, where Gogol finished the first part of Dead Souls.) "A horizon without end... Rus! Rus! I see you, from my wondrous beautiful distance I see you: it is poor scattered and comfortless in you..." Not bold wonders of nature crowned by works of art, but "in you all is openly deserted and level; like dots, like specks, your low towns stick up inconspicuously amidst the plains; there is nothing to seduce or enchant the eye. But what inconceivable, mysterious force draws one to you.?" "What prophecy in this uncompassable expanse? Is it not here, in you, that the boundless thought is born, ... the mighty man is to be born?"
(226-227) QUOTE The road! As Chichikov drowses off to the rumbling of the carriage wheels, Gogol describes the sensations of travel: slipping out of consciousness only to return towns later with a new moon in the sky, "with fields and steppes before you, nothing anywhere- everywhere emptiness, all wide open... God! how good you are sometimes, you long road!"
(228-247) Again, Gogol apologizes for having written a book about such a scoundrel! We then discover Chichikov's true history. How did he wind up this round, soft servant of the devil?
"Everything transforms quickly in man; before you can turn around, a horrible worm has grown inside him, despotically drawing all life's juices to itself." (247)
Again, Gogol apologizes for exposing human poverty. Wouldn't you prefer to just ignore it and talk about something else? Why not let the whole thing slide until it is too late? What will our patriots say? Gogol tells the tale of Kifa Mokievich, the philosopher obsessed with considering the nature of man in his naked state, whose son Moky Kifovich has become the local town bully. What is he to do? Mokievich resolves that it won't be him who betrays his son! But the author has a duty to the sacred truth! Isn't there a bit of Chichikov in you and me?
(252-53) QUOTE Chichikov tells Selifan to get a move on, and the whip flies, and the britzka lurches into motion. Final image of the novel: "Ah, troika! bird troika, who invented you?... the steeds go like the wind, the spokes of the wheels blend to a smooth disc, the road simply shudders, and the passerby stops and cries out in flight-- there she goes, racing, racing, racing! ... And you, Rus! are you not like a brisk, unbeatable troika racing on?.... what is the meaning of this horrific movement? and what unknown force is hidden in these steeds unknown to the world? .... Rus, where are you racing to ? Give answer! She gives no answer. Wondrously the harness bell dissolves in ringing, the air rumbles, shattered to pieces, and turns to wind; everything on earth flies by, and, looking askance, other nations step aside to make way."
Gogol's point? Russia possesses a special destiny (the Third Rome) because there alone, not in wealthy Europe, the humble reality and precarious fragility of humanity can be clearly apprehended. Even here, the Devil angles for the humblest souls.