The Overcoat

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The Young Official Character Analysis

A young man new to Akaky Akakievich’s office. He is moved to pity when the other officials make fun of Akaky, and Akaky’s defensive exclamations seem to the young official to mean “I am thy brother.” The young official remembers this for a long time, and feels ashamed about the state of man’s inhumanity to man. His realization marks the story’s shift from a rather straightforward comedy to a more complex kind of tragicomedy.

The Young Official Quotes in The Overcoat

The The Overcoat quotes below are all either spoken by The Young Official or refer to The Young Official. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Overcoat published in 2006.
The Overcoat Quotes

And for a long time afterwards, even during his gayest moments, he would see that stooping figure with a bald patch in front, muttering pathetically: “Leave me alone, why do you have to torment me?” And in these piercing words he could hear the sound of others: “I am your brother.” The poor young man would bury his face in his hands and many times later in life shuddered at the thought of how brutal men could be and how the most refined manners and breeding often concealed the most savage coarseness, even, dear God, in someone universally recognized for his honesty and uprightness...

Related Characters: Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin (speaker), The Narrator (speaker), The Young Official
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has described the way in which Akaky is constantly bullied by the other clerks at his office, most of whom are younger than him. Akaky usually ignores them and never stands up for himself, only occasionally begging them to leave him alone. Over time, only one clerk is moved to feel sympathy for Akaky, and many years later comes to be haunted by his coworkers' merciless taunting, believing it to show the cruelty of humanity. This passage reveals that, for all its comic levity, there is a dark, morally urgent exploration at the heart of the story. Despite being completely harmless and inoffensive, Akaky is ruthlessly taunted by his coworkers, who seem to target him precisely because of his weakness. 

The fact that the Young Official is the only character who pities Akaky further emphasizes that people tend to have a highly limited capacity for compassion. Meanwhile, the reader is forced to reckon with his or her own ethical position, as Akaky is portrayed in such an unappealing, comic light. By laughing at Akaky's strange manner and unfortunate life, is the reader participating in the same cruel behavior as the clerks who bully him? 


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The Young Official Character Timeline in The Overcoat

The timeline below shows where the character The Young Official appears in The Overcoat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Overcoat
Bureaucracy and Selfhood Theme Icon
The Insignificance of the Everyman Theme Icon
Social Status and Fate Theme Icon
...far, Akaky shouts at them to leave him alone. The Narrator says that once, a young official new to the office was so moved to pity that he would remember Akaky’s exclamations... (full context)