The Diary of a Madman


Nikolai Gogol

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The Diary of a Madman: Madrid. Thirtieth Februarius Summary & Analysis

Poprishchin writes that he is finally in Spain. He claims Spanish deputies came for him, and that they all arrived at the Spanish border in “half an hour.” When he arrived, he saw many people “with shaved heads,” and believed they were “soldiers.” A man Poprishchin calls the “lord chancellor” grabs Poprishchin and threatens to beat him if he wishes to call himself “King Ferdinand.” The man hits Poprishchin with a stick, but Poprishchin merely believes this to be a part of the “knightly custom.”
The faux-formal addendum to “February” is befitting of Poprishchin’s belief that this is an epic and historic day. Poprishchin claims he has arrived in Spain. The details in his diary reveal, though, that Poprishchin has been taken to an asylum. Poprishchin interprets these details through the lens of his delusion, believing the inmates with shaved heads are soldiers and not other patients. One of the asylum’s staff beats him for using the name of his made-up alter ego. This scene thus also highlights the cruelty of the asylum towards the mentally ill, as Poprishchin’s delusion isn’t actually hurting anyone other than himself.
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After the man leaves, Poprishchin occupies himself with “state affairs.” He discovers that China and Spain are “the same land.” He then writes about an event that is scheduled to take place the next day, where the earth will sit “on the moon.” He runs into another room to tell other people about this plot, but the “lord chancellor” rushes in and beats him with a stick.
After Poprishchin is left alone, his insanity continues to worsen. He begins to believe that the end of the world is imminent, and that the earth and the moon will collide. Fearing for the planet, he runs to tell the other inmates, but is caught by a staff member of the asylum and beaten for voicing his delusions. Again, the asylum is a cruel place. This engender some sympathy for Poprishchin.
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