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Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

It is one of Nikolai Gogol’s most relevant realist novels. It was published in 1842 and the author himself calls it an epic poem. Here you can download a COPY of Dead Souls in PDF format.

We find in this story an antihero protagonist, with a somewhat murky past, who seeks to pull off a scam in a town to which he moves for apparently obscure reasons.

His purpose is to make his life financially comfortable through illicit means, which he achieves since his appearance as a prosperous man is a misleading one, both to the townspeople and the authorities.

Each character described in the plot of the novel is done in an almost caricatured and somewhat grotesque way, although this does not detract from its realistic style. The satirical tone of the work makes it an obvious social criticism of the post-war Russia of the early nineteenth century.

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Summary of Dead Souls

Pavel Chichikov, a middle-class man, moves to a small town in the interior of the country, where he quickly works to make a name for himself.

Although he does not have many economic resources, he makes officials and citizens believe that he is rich and upper class. All this is to execute a plan to enrich himself at the cost of buying “dead souls” (servants).

At that time, landowners had the right to obtain serfs to cultivate their lands. So, these could be bought, sold, and mortgaged as if they were goods. These people were called “souls”.

Therefore, the servants who died were “dead souls”, but they were still in the records and were taken into account for tax collection since it took a long time to update the information.

Chichikov planned to buy the dead souls from the landowners. The reason he went for this was to free them from paying taxes for them.

By collecting a considerable number of dead souls, Chichikov would have the right to demand land plots from the central government. In addition, by owning property over the serfs he would receive a large amount of money in loans.

In that way, he would retire to a farm and could make the fortune he longed for. In fact, the dead souls helped him to inflate his social position.

Chichikov is treated as a nobleman among the town officials. He manages to acquire 400 souls and the whole town celebrates such a feat.

However, not everything is rosy, soon some greedy characters will put stones in the way of their macabre plan.

FAQ about Dead Souls

What do dead souls mean?

The dead souls are the servants that the landowners acquire and that over time have already died, however, this information is not registered until much later.

The protagonist of the novel takes advantage of this to buy them and defraud the state, which will be forced to give him land when he has a certain number of serfs.

What was Pavel Chichikov’s plan?

Pavel Chichikov plans to buy dead souls from the landowners of a small town, to free them from paying taxes. With this, he would make them his property and force the central government to give him land with which he planned to retire and receive money in loans to amass a fortune.

What is the main theme of Dead Souls?

Dead Souls is a social criticism of Russian society after World War I. It does so through a satirical tone and a realistic style with character development full of greed, vulgarity, and banality. It does so through a satirical tone and a realistic style with character development full of greed, vulgarity, and banality.

What are the characters in Dead Souls like?

Each character is placed in the right place, that is, each one fulfills a function concerning his or her place in society. However, they are presented as a caricature, exaggerating personality traits such as greed and their determination to focus on banal matters.