The Supernatural Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
[Ivan Yakovlevitch] cut the roll open. Then he glanced into the roll's middle. To his intense surprise he saw something glimmering there. He probed it cautiously with the knife—then poked at it with a finger. […] He stuck in his fingers, and pulled out—a nose! .. His hands dropped to his sides for a moment. Then he rubbed his eyes hard. Then again he probed the thing. A nose! Sure enough a nose! (1.5-7)
Now, it's true that in this first section we don't really get to the high level of magical realism from the story's second section, but we're already starting to get the slightly off-kilter feel of the story's universe here. It's a nose, and it's totally intact to the point that the barber will be able to recognize it. Which means, no blood, no knife marks—nothing of the kind of scene it could be if we were working with realism here. But instead it's just a weird and inconvenient object, like if you found a rock in your bread roll, or a small stick maybe. Definitely not a severed finger in your French fries.
This made Ivan Yakovlevitch blanch, and——
Further events here become enshrouded in mist. What happened after that is unknown to all men. (1.30-31)
Oh yeah: Gogol's tongue is pretty firmly jammed into his cheek on this one. We've got a way, way overblown mystically magically mysterious conclusion to the whole barber story. Seriously? "Unknown to all men"? That's taking it to the farthest extreme of mock-spookery. With hilarious results! No, really. Hilarious.
But, to his unbounded astonishment, there was only a flat patch on his face where the nose should have been! Greatly alarmed, he got some water, washed, and rubbed his eyes hard with the towel. Yes, the nose indeed was gone! He prodded the spot with a hand—pinched himself to make sure that he was not still asleep. But no; he was not still sleeping. Then he leapt from the bed, and shook himself. No nose! Finally, he got his clothes on, and hurried to the office of the Police Commissioner. (2.1)
Nice, we're back to the fantastical again. Why do we say that? Ok, imagine you wake up in the morning, and the nose is missing from your face. Is your first reaction to run to the office? Yeah, not so much. But this guy is still mostly stressed about getting to work on time. (Come to think of it, you know who else has the same exact reaction? Gregor Samsa, when he wakes up and has turned into a cockroach in Kafka's "Metamorphosis." All of literature is giant game of connect the dots, people.)