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Themes

"The Nose," like any work of magical realism, does its best to try to blend the supernatural into the normal and expected. Instead of freaking out when they see a nose walking around without a face behind it, people in this story tend to be calmly puzzled, if anything. At the same time, Gogol throws in elements that take the supernatural to the other extreme—those weird fade-outs at the end of the first two sections really up the ooooh-spoooooky ante. Either way, the result is intentionally comical rather than mystifying.

Questions About The Supernatural

  1. The nose is constantly changing size—small enough for a face, big enough to wear clothes, etc. Why doesn't this get brought up in the story itself? What would change if Kovalev or another character thought about this?
  2. Are there any other supernatural elements besides the nose? Do those other strange things (the possessed chairs, etc.) count? Why or why not?
  3. How does the sudden appearance of the narrator as a real life person change the way we see the story? Is this yet another transformation of an mostly inanimate object—the narrator as a structure for the author's voice—into an actual living being?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The nose is to Kovalev as the narrator is to the author of the story. Each escapes from its owner and tries to create a separate life.

The story deftly avoids being either a fable with a moral or an allegory with a definite interpretation by wildly veering from one of these genres to the other.

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