Study Guide

The Diary of a Madman Section 8: November 13

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Section 8: November 13

  • This diary entry consists of Poprishchin quoting from and commenting on the dogs' letters. Reading this summary might feel a bit like a tennis match, with our heads going back and forth between the quotes and the comments.
  • Poprishchin comments that while the writing is very clear, there is still something "doggy" about it.
  • Quote from a letter to Fidele goes something like: Dear Fidele, Why do you have such a common sounding name? Anyway, I'm glad we're writing each other. (Ah, so it must be Medji writing this. She herself has a fancy name.)
  • Poprishchin notes that the punctuation and spellings are correct. Well done, dogs.
  • Another quote from the letter: It's a blessing to share thoughts, feelings and impressions.
  • Poprishchin thinks the dog must be stealing that phrase from a German work that he once read.
  • Quote from the letter: I live a life of pleasure. My mistress Sophie loves me to distraction.
  • Not surprisingly, this elicits another outburst of excitement and then "never mind, never mind, silence" from Poprishchin. So now we know that the director's daughter must be named Sophie.
  • Quote: I live a life of pleasure and here are the details (example: big, bare bones are bad; bones from wild game are good).
  • Poprishchin says this is trivial nonsense and skips a few pages.
  • Quote: I'm going to tell you about everything that goes on in this house, and especially about Papa.
  • Poprishchin's excited to find out about political events and especially about Papa, a.k.a. the director.
  • Quote: Papa is a strange man and mostly keeps quiet. He sometimes speaks to himself. The other day he said, "Will I get it or won't I?" A week later, he came home happy. Many gentlemen came to congratulate him. He lifted me up and showed me a ribbon around his neck. I licked it and it was salty. (A ribbon around the neck? No, no, it's not a dog collar. Russian nobility would receive ribbons as a sign of recognition for a commendable deed.)
  • Poprishchin doesn't like the way the dog writes. And he notes that Papa must be ambitious. He keeps reading.
  • Finally, here's the part about Sophie, the director's daughter.
  • Quote: My mistress Sophie was going to a ball and was very excited, almost to the point of being angry. She came back home at six in the morning and looked pale and skinny, as if she hadn't eaten anything. (Regular readers of People magazine will immediately recognize that not much has changed since 19th-century Russia.)
  • Poprishchin comments that the style of this letter is very uneven and that that proves that it is written by a dog and not a man.
  • Quote from another letter: Spring is approaching and I have many dogs interested in me. How ugly and low-class some of them are! Especially that Great Dane. But I am into one suitor, Tresor, who climbs our fence.
  • Poprishchin calls these trifles and skips a page.
  • Quote: Sophie was sewing when a lackey announced that a guy by the name of Teplov was here. He came in. He has dark hair, dark eyes and is a kammerjunker. (Dark hair and dark eyes… sounds exotic for Russia, but what is a kammerjunker? It means "gentleman of the bedchamber" in German. But it's also the name of the lowest rank of the imperial court, which counts for a lot.) Sophie and Teplov talked about nonsense relating to the ball. When I compare my suitor Tresor with Teplov, I don't see what Sophie finds in Teplov.
  • Poprishchin thinks there must be something wrong. How could a kammerjunker enchant Sophie?
  • Quote: If she likes that silly Teplov, soon she'll be falling for the clerk who sits in Papa's study. If only you knew how ugly he is! He is like a turtle in a sack.
  • Poprishchin wonders who that clerk might be.
  • Quote: He has the strangest last name. And he always sharpens Papa's pens. His hair looks like hay and Papa uses him as his servant. Sophie laughs at this guy.
  • Poprishchin finally gets that the dog is writing about him. He blames the section chief for bad-mouthing him to Sophie.
  • Quote from the third letter: I am sorry for not having written you for so long. I've been in love. The kammerjunker comes every day now. Papa is very happy. There will be a wedding soon because Papa wants to marry Sophie off to a kammerjunker or a general.
  • Poprishchin says he can't take it anymore and tears the dog's letters to shreds.

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