Nicholai Gogol’s Dead Souls

This paper discusses Nicholai Gogol’s use of symbolism and irony in Dead Souls, a description of a corrupt social order.

Gogol’s novel, Dead Souls, is many things. It is an epic, a novel of Russian life, a series of character portrayals of the various good and bad members of Russian society, and a satire or parody of the evil in the world as Gogol saw it. The method he employs is noteworthy; he has tackled his themes with wit and humor and always casts a sardonic grin at his subjects rather than an accusing finger. In the end, the effect is chilling, and the reader comes away feeling that this book is indeed a masterpiece.

Gogol’s novel has a lot to do with the peasants of Russian society, the dead souls of the title. In the Russian census of the times, a serf was referred to as a soul, probably because the Russian nobility refused to recognize them as living, breathing human beings. Gogol wrote this work in Paris and Rome, but there …