The Diary of a Madman

by

Nikolai Gogol

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The Diary of a Madman: November 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Poprishchin begins to read the dogs’ letter but is initially fed up by the “nonsense” of the subject matter, which includes the type of food Medji likes best. When Medji begins to talk about Papá, the director and Poprishchin’s boss, Poprishchin finally hopes to hear about the dogs’ “political views.”
The letter, a part of Poprishchin’s ongoing delusion, is written convincingly: it describes topics a dog would presumably be interested in, such as food. As a form of escapist writing, the letter provides an additional outlet for Poprishchin’s thoughts. Unlike in his diary entries, where he fantasizes about his noble reputation, the letter allows him to finally visualize what life is like in a rich household (even if he is fantasizing about this from the perspective of a dog).
Themes
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Medji’s letter begins to describe the director, pointing out that he is mostly “silent.” Medji then describes a scenario one morning where uniformed men keep appearing at his house and congratulating him. That same morning, the director holds Medji up to look at a “little ribbon” on his neck. Poprishchin, reading this, comments that the director is “ambitious.”
The letter mainly references personality traits that Poprishchin has already highlighted, such as the director’s silent demeanor.  The letter, a creative outlet for Poprishchin’s mania, only repeats the conclusions he has written in his diary.
Themes
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Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
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Medji begins to talk about Sophie and describes a scene in which a man named Teplov shows up at Sophie’s home. Sophie calls for him to be let in, and rapturously describes Teplov to Medji, complimenting his hair and eyes. Teplov, Medji writes, is a kammerjunker, or a low-level nobleman. Medji cannot understand why Sophie would “admire him so.”
The letter, which continues to be an outlet for Poprishchin’s fantasies, begins to shift focus to his other fixations. The letter reveals that Sophie has been meeting with a man named Teplov, who is a minor nobleman. Sophie seems to be enamored of Teplov, though Medji cannot see his allure. This, of course, is a projection of Poprishchin’s own insecurity; so intense is his mania becoming that he attempts to belittle in his fantasies a man it’s not even clear actually exists.
Themes
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Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
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Medji then jokes that if Sophie likes Teplov, she might soon like the clerk who sits in the director’s study. Medji makes fun the 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 section chief, claiming that he wants to “injure” Poprishchin.
Poprishchin, angered by the direction the letter has taken, then blames the section chief for writing it, illustrating his paranoia. Since the letter is really a manifestation of Poprishchin’s own madness, the fact that it includes a jab at his appearance implies his own deep insecurity.
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Medji goes on to write that Sophie loves Teplov “to distraction,” which makes her father, the director, very “happy.” Medji comments that the 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 world. Poprishchin tears the letter “to shreds.”
Poprishchin continues to read the letter despite his anger. The letter finally reveals that Sophie is in love with Teplov, which is an advantageous match for her father, the director. Poprishchin’s mania about status is so thorough that it even permeates his delusions about the dog-written letter.
Themes
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon