The Diary of a Madman

by

Nikolai Gogol

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Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin Character Analysis

Poprishchin, the protagonist of “Diary of a Madman,” is a low-level civil servant with an uninspiring career who is obsessed with social class and status. He is resentful and envious of his superiors, and dismissive of strangers he considers low-class, but never expresses his acidic thoughts aloud. Instead, he expresses his true feelings in the form of angry, judgmental diary entries. Poprishchin is also in love with Sophie, the daughter of his boss, but his poetic thoughts and feelings for her never translate into actual conversations. Poprishchin’s inability to truly communicate with anyone, combined with his fixation on social status, puts him in a state of total isolation. Eventually, he loses his sanity. Throughout the story, Poprishchin is unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality: he believes that two dogs are talking in human language, for instance, and that he is a long-lost king of Spain. Poprishchin is eventually taken to an insane asylum, where he spends his days in a paranoid state or absorbed by delusions of grandeur. Poprishchin eventually, briefly, realizes how isolated he has become and ends the story with an awareness that he is all alone in the world, with no true connection to tether him to other people.

Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin Quotes in The Diary of a Madman

The The Diary of a Madman quotes below are all either spoken by Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin or refer to Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin . 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:
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Diary of a Madman published in 1999.
October 3 Quotes

It’s true, our work is noble, it’s clean everywhere, as you never see it in the provincial government: the tables are mahogany, and the superiors address each other formally. Yes, I confess, if it weren’t for the nobility of the work, I’d long since have quit the department.

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker)
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:

Ah, you pup! I confess, I was very surprised to hear her speak in human language. But later, when I’d thought it over properly, I at once ceased to be surprised… I confess, lately I had begun sometimes to hear and see things no one had ever seen or heard before.

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker), Medji and Fidèle
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:
October 4 Quotes

Our director must be a very intelligent man. His whole study is filled with bookcases. I read the titles of some of the books: it’s all learning, such learning as our kind can’t even come close to… A real statesman. I notice, though, that he has a special liking for me. If only the daughter also...

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker), Sophie, The Director
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

Heavens above, how she was dressed! Her gown was white as a swan, and so magnificent… “Your Excellency,” I almost wanted to say, “don’t punish me, but if it is your will to punish me, punish me with Your Excellency’s own hand.” But, devil take it, my tongue somehow refused to move…

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker), Sophie
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:
November 6 Quotes

“You’re over forty— it’s time you got smart. What are you dreaming of? Do you think I don’t know all your pranks? You’re dangling after the director’s daughter! Well, take a look at yourself, only think, what are you? You’re a zero, nothing more. You haven’t got a kopeck to your name.”

Related Characters: The Section Chief (speaker), Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin , Sophie
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:

I see why he’s angry with me. He’s jealous. Maybe he saw the signs of benevolence preferentially bestowed on me… Wait, friend! we, too, will become a colonel and, God willing, maybe something even higher. We’ll get ourselves a reputation even better than yours.

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker), The Section Chief
Page Number: 283–284
Explanation and Analysis:
November 11 Quotes

I’ve meant several times to strike up a conversation with His Excellency, only, devil take it, my tongue wouldn’t obey me: I’d just say it was cold or warm outside, and be decidedly unable to say anything else. I’d like to peek into the drawing room, where you sometimes see only an open door into yet another room beyond the drawing room. Ah, such rich furnishings!

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker), The Director
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:
December 3 Quotes

So what if he’s a kammerjunker. It’s nothing more than a dignity; it’s not anything visible that you can take in your hands. Several times already I’ve tried to figure out where all these differences come from. What makes me a titular councillor, and why on earth am I a titular councillor? […] Maybe I myself don’t know who I am.

Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:
The Year 2000, 43rd of April Quotes

Spain has a king. He has been found. I am that king. Only this very day did I learn of it. I confess, it came to me suddenly in a flash of lightning. I don’t understand how I could have thought and imagined that I was a titular councillor.

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker)
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:
The 86th of Martober Quotes

They said the director was coming. Many clerks ran up front to show themselves before him. But I didn’t budge… What is a director that I should stand up before him… I was most amused when they slipped me a paper to be signed. They thought I’d write “Chief Clerk So-and-So”… Not a chance! In the central place, where the director of the department signs, I dashed off: “Ferdinand VIII.”

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker), The Director
Related Symbols: Ferdinand VIII
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:
Don’t remember the date. Quotes

The mantle is all ready and sewn up. Mavra cried out when I put it on. However, I still refrain from presenting myself at court. No deputation from Spain so far. Without deputies it’s not proper. There’ll be no weight to my dignity.

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker)
Related Symbols: Attire and Clothing
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:
January of the same year Quotes

I still cannot understand what sort of country Spain is. The popular customs and court etiquette are absolutely extraordinary… they began dripping cold water on my head. I’ve never experienced such hell before… Judging by all probabilities, I guess I may have fallen into the hands of the Inquisition, and the one I took for the chancellor may be the grand inquisitor himself.

Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:
The of 34 February th Quotes

Is that my mother sitting at the window? Dear mother, save your poor son! shed a tear on his sick head! see how they torment him! press the poor orphan to your breast! there’s no place for him in the world! they’re driving him out! […] And do you know that the Dey of Algiers has a bump just under his nose?

Related Characters: Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin (speaker)
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:
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Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin Character Timeline in The Diary of a Madman

The timeline below shows where the character Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin appears in The Diary of a Madman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
October 3
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Aksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin, a low-level clerk, describes his innermost thoughts through diary entries. Having woken up late for... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin then shares judgmental commentary about the coworkers in his office. He points out that the... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin goes out for a walk with his old coat and umbrella, and comments on the... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
...has taken the carriage to go shopping, and when she gets out of the vehicle, Poprishchin poetically comments that she “flutter[s]” like a “little bird.” Sophie does not recognize or acknowledge... (full context)
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin notices that Sophie has left her dog outside while she shops. He remembers that he... (full context)
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin soon rationalizes Medji’s human speech, writing in his diary that there have “already been many... (full context)
October 4
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Poprishchin begins a running commentary on the personality of his boss, the director. He believes the... (full context)
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Sophie then enters the study, and Poprishchin jumps to attention. He thinks she is “magnificent,” and when she speaks, he compares her... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Sophie then leaves the room, and a lackey comes in and dismisses Poprishchin from his duties for the day. Poprishchin mentally criticizes him for his lack of manners.... (full context)
November 6
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin begins this diary entry by illustrating his anger with his manager, the section chief. The... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin, instead of taking this commentary on his career prospects seriously, believes the section chief is... (full context)
November 8
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Poprishchin describes a trip he takes to the theater. The play he sees makes fun of... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Poprishchin admits that he loves the theater, and as soon as he gets money from his... (full context)
November 9
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin describes an uneventful day. He goes to the office at eight, and comments on how... (full context)
November 11
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Poprishchin describes sitting in his director’s study and sharpening pens. He soon switches his focus to... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Poprishchin confesses that he has tried “several times” to start a conversation with the director, but... (full context)
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin then remembers the conversation he heard between the two dogs a few weeks earlier and... (full context)
November 12
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Poprishchin walks to the building where he saw Fidèle’s owner, and comments on the smell of... (full context)
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin sees Fidèle’s basket in the corner and pulls out a “bundle” of papers. Poprishchin then... (full context)
November 13
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin begins to read the dogs’ letter but is initially fed up by the “nonsense” of... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
...morning, the director holds Medji up to look at a “little ribbon” on his neck. Poprishchin, reading this, comments that the director is “ambitious.” (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
...of the clerk’s appearance and adds that Sophie always laughs when she “looks at him.” Poprishchin begins to realize that Medji is talking about him, and ascribes the writing to the... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
...director would like Sophie to marry someone of rank, such as a general, or colonel. Poprishchin, reading this, is enraged, and laments that higher-class men take “all that’s best” in the... (full context)
December 3
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin does not want to believe that Sophie will marry Teplov. He begins to rant about... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin then discusses how there are “so many examples” of men suddenly realizing that they are... (full context)
December 5
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Poprishchin spends the morning reading the newspaper and writes in his diary how there are “strange... (full context)
The Year 2000, 43rd of April
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin writes in his diary that Spain has found a king, and that he is “that... (full context)
The 86th of Martober. Between day and night.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin’s manager tells him to go to the office, as he has not been to work... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin’s coworkers button up their coats and become more formal as the director approaches, but Poprishchin... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin then walks out of the office and goes to the director’s apartment. He goes into... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin then thinks to himself that all women want to marry the “devil.” He condemns all... (full context)
Date none. The day had no date.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin writes in his diary that he was walking “incognito” through the neighborhood, and did not... (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprischin laments how he does not have proper royal attire. He wishes he could get a... (full context)
Don’t remember the date. There was no month, either. Devil knows what there was.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin writes that he has finished his royal clothing. He shows it to his cleaning woman,... (full context)
The 1st
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin writes in his diary that he is “astonished” by the slowness of the Spanish deputies,... (full context)
Madrid. Thirtieth Februarius
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Poprishchin writes that he is finally in Spain. He claims Spanish deputies came for him, and... (full context)
Insanity Theme Icon
After the man leaves, Poprishchin occupies himself with “state affairs.” He discovers that China and Spain are “the same land.”... (full context)
January of the same year, which came after February.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin writes that he cannot understand the customs of Spain. He writes that someone shaved his... (full context)
The 25th.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin describes how the grand inquisitor visited him. Poprishchin hid “under a chair,” and his visitor... (full context)
The of 34 February th, yrea 349.
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
Poprishchin writes in despair that he “does not have the strength” to “endure.” He writes how... (full context)
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
He continues to call out for help, Poprishchin imagines that he sees some “Russian huts.” He wonders if that is his mother he... (full context)