Gogol as St. Petersburg. "Diary of a Madman", by Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, January 1996

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Within Diary of a Madman, Gogol attempts a tale of epic proportions, if only for the schizophrenic mumblings of a character so immersed in his own psychosis that he fails to realize that the entire world does not share his own delusions. Through numerous journal entries, Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin leads us throughout his world, from his mediocre job and crush on his employer's daughter, to his encounters with dogs of higher intelligence, to the torments he undergoes at the hands of the Spanish 'Inquisitor.' This is a tale of suffering; Poprishchin is just a pathetic, Walter Mitty-esque soul who's only pleasure lies within his own imagination. When his only possible bridge to an escape from this world collapses, when his employer's daughter Sophie rejects him, his world ceases to exist in the normal realm, and wholly resides through his journal entries and his subsequent trek to Spain to claim what is rightfully his throne.

In the end, this 'throne' turns out to be the other side of his mind.

This decline in consciousness begins with the very first entry. Even upon writing this initial entry, one questions the reasoning behind it: why does Poprishchin decide to begin keeping a journal? Has he perhaps always kept one, but just needed a new book, or has someone given him a gift that he feels he must utilize? One possibility is that Poprishchin decides that something has finally happened in his life that is worth recording for prosperity. The very first sentence of the first record, dated October 3, rather proves this theory, 'Today the most extraordinary thing happened to me.'1 Poprishchin then begins to tell of the day's events leading up to this 'most extraordinary' event, showing to the reader that he is rather unlearned in the art of journal writing--he...