Passage Analysis: Nikolay Gogol, “The Greatcoat”

Project description
Discuss the significance of the passage in terms of the themes and images it presents as well as its relation to the work as a whole. Your discussion should not just be a summary of the plot of the work, but should present an analysis of the important themes, images, and ideas present in the passage, as well as address how those elements relate to the rest of the story.

From The Greatcoat:
The young clerks joked and made witticisms at his expense, as far as their office wit would stretch. There, in his presence, they told all kinds of stories they had made up about him and his landlady, an old woman of seventy; they said she beat him, asked when the wedding would be, and showered little scraps of paper on to his head, saying it was snowing. But not a word of response came from Akaky Akakiyevich, who carried on as if there were no one else there; it did not even affect his work: amid all these aggravations he made not one error in his copying. Only when the joke became too unbearable, when they jogged his elbow and stopped him carrying on with his work, would he say, Let me be. Why do you torment me? And there was something strange in the words, and in the voice that uttered them. In that voice was something so evocative of pity that one young man, who had recently been appointed, and who, following the examples of others, was on the point of allowing himself to make fun of Akaky Akakiyevich, suddenly stopped, as if transfixed, and from that moment everything was changed before him and appeared in a different light. Some strange power pushed him away from his colleagues, whom he had taken, on first meeting them, to be decent, cultivated men. And for a long time afterwards, at moments of the greatest merriment, there would appear before him the figure of the little clerk with the balding forehead, uttering his piercing words, Let me be. Why do you torment me? In these piercing words was an echo of other words: I am your brother. And the poor young man would bury his face in his hands, and many a time in his life he would shudder to see how much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness can lie concealed in refined, cultivated manners and dear God! even in a man society regards as noble and honourable.

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