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The Nose

The Nose

by Nikolai Gogol

Society and Class Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Major Kovalev was in the habit of taking a daily walk on Nevsky Prospekt in an extremely clean and well-starched shirt and collar, and in whiskers of the sort still to be seen on provincial surveyors, architects, regimental doctors, other officials, and all men who have round, red cheeks, and play a good hand of "Boston." Such whiskers run across the exact center of the cheek—then head straight for the nose. […] And, finally, Major Kovalev had come to live in St. Petersburg because of necessity. That is to say, he had come to live in St. Petersburg because he wished to obtain a post befitting his new title—whether a Vice-Governorship or, failing that, an Administratorship in a leading department. Nor was Major Kovalev altogether set against marriage. Merely he required that his bride should possess not less than two hundred thousand rubles in capital. The reader, therefore, can now imagine what was the Major's disposition when he saw that instead of a not unpresentable nose there was on his face an extremely uncouth, smooth, and uniform patch. (2.4-5)

Ok, so right away we know that Major Kovalev is the diametric opposite of the barber (clean, precisely shaven, not a drunk). Also, totally ambitious about getting up into society. Check out how he does that thing where you're supposed to dress like what you aspire to be (when you're going in for a job interview anyway). His facial hair looks like the facial hair of other mid-high level officials, he plays the right kind of card game (think of businessmen and golf for a modern-day analogy), he's moved to the right city, and now he's looking for the right wife with the right dowry. Meaning, he's a guy who's devoted a huge amount of time to looking the part—and now he doesn't look right at all.

Quote #2

Sure enough, the Nose did return, two minutes later. It was clad in a gold-braided, high-collared uniform, buckskin breeches, and cockaded hat. And slung beside it there was a sword, and from the cockade on the hat it could be inferred that the Nose was purporting to pass for a State Councilor. It seemed now to be going to pay another visit somewhere. At all events it glanced about it, and then, shouting to the coachman, "Drive up here," reentered the vehicle, and set forth. (2.11-12)

So, in the space of a day, the Nose has leapt off of Kovalev's face and gotten himself into a higher-ranking position. Yeah, this is well out of the realm of realism. And notice how apparently this one facial feature was the location of all of Kovalev's ambition—and now that it's a lone actor, it can just go forth and conquer without being held back by the rest of Kovalev.

Quote #3

Kovalev felt so upset that for a while he could decide upon no course of action save to scan every corner in the gentleman's pursuit. At last he sighted him again, standing before a counter, and, with face hidden altogether behind the uniform's standup collar, inspecting with absorbed attention some wares.

"How, even so, am I to approach it?" Kovalev reflected. "Everything about it, uniform, hat, and all, seems to show that it is a State Councilor. now. Only the devil knows what is to be done!" 

He started to cough in the Nose's vicinity, but the Nose did not change its position for a single moment.

"My good sir," at length Kovalev said, compelling himself to boldness, "my good sir, I—— " (2.13-16)

Kovalev believes in social status so much that he might as well be a seventh grader at recess. He immediately buys into the idea that the nose now outranks him and is crazy stressed about how to start talking to this much more important individual than with anything else… like say the idea that this is his nose!

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