Study Guide

The Diary of a Madman Prejudice

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Prejudice

How do you make sure no one reading your story has feelings of pity for the protagonist? Make him mad and foolish. That might not be enough, though. How about making him a bigot with a long list of prejudices? A bit of racism, a dash of anti-Semitism, some xenophobia, a dose of classism, plus province-bashing, topped with misogyny. Poprishchin seems like he has a bias against everyone who crosses his path, and this makes him very hard to pity. But then, how does one go about separating Poprishchin's prejudices from those of the author?

Questions About Prejudice

  1. Can we treat Poprishchin's prejudices only as part of his characterization and clear the author of charges of prejudice?
  2. In order to get published, this story still had to make it through the censors. How do you think that might have affected the selection of prejudices Poprishchin harbors? 
  3. Societal prejudices change over time. Is it possible to read something historical like this story and still understand the role prejudices play in it without turning to outside references?

Chew on This

Because the prejudiced statements in this story are so hyperbolical, one cannot take them seriously.

The prejudices Poprishchin expresses aren't extreme, but reflect the common prejudices of his time.

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