Study Guide

The Diary of a Madman Foolishness and Folly

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Foolishness and Folly

Poprishchin isn't just a madman, but also a fool. It's not always so easy to tell the madness and the folly apart at the beginning—skipping work because you're thinking about Spanish affairs: foolish or mad or both? But the foolishness is worth noting as its own, separate theme. Remember, "The Diary of a Madman" is written as a satire, so if our madman were simply mad, there wouldn't be much to laugh at. When Poprishchin acts foolishly in the relatively saner parts of the story, it's more okay to laugh at him.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. Poprishchin doesn't create art but consumes it. If he were to consume better art, like only going to serious theater instead of vaudeville, would he seem less of a fool?
  2. Why does Poprishchin consider books in French and German a sign of intelligence?
  3. What role does hope play in Poprishchin's crossover from folly to madness?
  4. How does sexual frustration and desperation factor into Poprishchin's depiction as a fool?

Chew on This

Gogol characterizes Poprishchin as a fool by giving him opinions that were commonly held to be foolish by the upper classes of the time.

Poprishchin's foolishness has less to do with his actual opinions actually are, and more to do with the fact that he's so inflexible with them.

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