Study Guide

The Nose

The Nose Summary

One morning, a barber and his wife are munching on some breakfast when he finds a nose in his bread roll. He recognizes the nose—it belongs to one of his clients, Collegiate Assessor Kovalev. Neither of them is particularly grossed out by this. Still, the barber's wife gets mad at her husband's carelessness, drunkenness, and general crappiness, and she demands that he take the nose away. After some misadventures in the streets, the barber ends up throwing it away into the river.

That same day, Collegiate Assessor Kovalev wakes up and realizes that his nose is gone. He is embarrassed about having to go outside like this and covers his face with a handkerchief. Suddenly, on the street, he sees a highly decorated civil servant get out of a carriage and go into a mansion, and is shocked to realize—it's his nose.

Kovalev follows the nose, but when he gets close enough to talk to him (it?), he gets all stressy about speaking to someone so much higher ranking. The nose denies being his nose and goes about its day like a total weirdo. Kovalev first tries to get the police involved and then tries to put an announcement in the paper, but all he gets for his troubles is a lot of social awkwardness and rudeness.

Finally, he decides that this is obviously the work of the mother of a girl he's been flirting with but not actually proposing to. He gives up and goes home, but just then a policeman shows up with the nose. Kovalev can't get the nose to stick on his face and a doctor he summons refuses to help… because the doctor is actually the nose in disguise, making its escape. Um, okay?

Depressed, Kovalev writes an angry letter to the girl's mom, but she writes back that she has no idea what he's talking about and is more than psyched for him to marry her daughter. Meanwhile, the nose is making TMZ-style headlines wherever it goes.

Two weeks later, Kovalev wakes up and discovers… the nose is back on his face. He goes outside, feeling all smug about the size of his nose compared to the noses of the other men he sees. Life is good, and he decides not to marry that girl after all. Then the narrator pops into the story to say that it all kind of sounds like nonsense, and who would publish this kind of thing anyway?

  • Part 1

    • Barber Ivan Yakovlevitch chowing down on some brekkie with his grumpy wife, when he finds a nose in his freshly baked roll.
    • (That makes us feel a little better about all the dog hair in our baked goods.)
    • He immediately recognizes the nose—it belongs to Collegiate Assessor Kovalev, one of the barber's regular shaving clients.
    • His wife starts yelling at him for being a no-good drunk—you know, like you do when you find a nose on the breakfast table. She demands he get rid of this nose.
    • The barber is all timid and brow-beaten and has no idea where to ditch the thing. He decides to just throw it into a gutter somewhere.
    • But of course, as he's walking around, he keeps bumping into people he knows. And he can't just throw the nose away in full view of everyone, right?
    • Instead, he decides to chuck it into the river Neva, remembering that Kovalev is always complaining about the barber's hands smelling bad.
    • He throws the nose into the water and feels a ton better immediately.
    • Just then, a cop shows up and starts asking the barber questions about what he's been doing on the bridge over the river.
    • Suddenly the story cuts out with the narrator saying something weird about how no one knows what happened next.
  • Part 2

    • Meanwhile, that same morning, Collegiate Assessor Kovalev wakes up and discovers that his nose is totally gone off his face.
    • There's no wound or scar or anything, just a flat piece of skin where the nose used to be. We're thinking kind of like this guy, except without the freaky slits.
    • His general response? Mostly just embarrassment. Like, what are people at work going to think? Um, maybe that you're some kind of zombie ghoul? No? Ok, then.
    • It turns out that Kovalev is a pretty ambitious guy, who is all about his civil service title. You know, he's one of those guys who parades his high-ranking friends around to show off to everyone else how big-time he is.
    • He leaves for his office with a handkerchief over his face but then decides to pop into a restaurant to check whether the nose is still missing. Yup, still gone.
    • Back outside, he suddenly catches a super-fancy high ranking dude come out of a carriage and go into a mansion. But it's not just some dude—it's his nose!
    • Kovalev realizes that his nose is now living a separate life and has in fact become a higher-ranking official than its owner. Which is for sure enough to make anyone feel like a slacker. We guess it's like how your teachers are always comparing you to your superstar older brother, except worse.
    • Kovalev follows the nose to the Great Gostiny Dvor, a fancy shopping center building.
    • He wants to confront it, but can't bring himself to talk to someone so much higher ranking.
    • Finally, he comes out with the whole dude-you're-my-nose thing, but the nose just denies it.
    • Just then a bunch of cute girls walk by, and Kovalev immediately gets into romance mode… until he realizes that he doesn't have a nose, and so can't flirt with the ladies. Obviously. Because he can't snort stuff like all the other dudes do.
    • Meanwhile, the nose has run off.
    • Kovalev tries to follow it, but no luck.
    • Instead, he decides to put an ad in the paper about the missing nose. The editor of the classifieds section is totally unimpressed with his story. Ok, actually, at first he doesn't even get the story—he assumes that what Kovalev is trying to say is that a man named Mr. Nose stole some money from him or something.
    • Finally, Kovalev shows him his face, and the editor is all, huh. Still, he refuses to put the ad in the paper because he's worried that the paper's reputation will go down the tubes because of the nonsense.
    • He tells Kovalev to get himself to a doctor instead. Then he offers him some snuff. Which Kovalev can't take. Because he has no nose. Duh.
    • Kovalev takes this as the final insult and goes off to the police station.
    • There, the police inspector lays into him, mostly because it's dinner time and the guy just wants to eat his food, ok?
    • Kovalev goes home and wallows in self-pity. Mostly he's upset that he didn't get injured in some awesome way—like in a cool way or at least in a cool fight.
    • Then he starts getting paranoid and decides that all of this is probably being caused by Madame Podtochina, who is the mother of a girl Kovalev's been leading on but not actually proposing to.
    • Just then, a cop shows up. He has the nose! It was intercepted leaving for the city of Riga and now the cop has it in his pocket. Also, the cop reveals, the barber is totally in on the whole thing!
    • Kovalev is super psyched, but when he tries to shove it back onto his face? No dice. The thing won't stick. Maybe try a needle and thread?
    • He calls for his doctor neighbor, but when that guy shows up, he's all, no, the nose thing isn't happening. Better get used to it.
    • Then he offers to buy it.
    • Kovalev never looks at the doctor's face, which is too bad because then he would see that actually that's no doctor at all… it's his nose! Making its escape!
    • Finally, Kovalev decides to write an accusatory letter to Madame Podtochina, yelling at her for doing some voodoo or something to make his nose go away.
    • She writes back that she has no idea what he's talking about, but she doesn't know anyone named Mr. Nose, and that Kovalev is totally welcome to marry her daughter. 
    • He realizes that she's innocent and decides to marry the girl.
    • Hey, a man with no nose has to take what he can get.
    • News starts spreading throughout the city about the nose's adventures. It's seen here and there and becomes a minor celebrity around town.
    • Again, the story suddenly gets interrupted with the thing about no one knowing what happened next.
  • Part 3

    • Two weeks later, Kovalev wakes up and discovers that his nose is back on his face.
    • He is super psyched and immediately calls for the barber (yes, that same barber) to give him a shave.
    • This time, though, he doesn't let him hold his nose while shaving his mustache area.
    • Kovalev keeps checking himself out in the mirror, totally excited each time to see that the nose is still there.
    • He goes out to hang out with his buddies and is feeling all sorts of smug whenever he sees someone with a smaller nose than his.
    • (Um…)
    • His self-confidence is at an all-time high, which means that, when he runs into Madame Podtochina and her daughter, he decides not to marry the girl after all.
    • From that day on, he remains the same guy he's always been. Maybe even more vain about his rank and stuff, but mostly pretty much the same.
    • Suddenly the narrative stops, and the narrator pops in to say that the whole story is pure nonsense, and why on earth did this get printed in the first place?
    • Still, the narrator concludes, there are weirder things that happen in the world.