Poprishchin’s fixation on social class and status makes him very judgmental of other people. His judgment often extends to others’ clothing, and various diary entries reference what people are wearing to illustrate their relative stature in society. When Poprishchin is walking through town and runs into Sophie, his love interest, he is embarrassed by the overcoat he is wearing, as it is outdated and dirty. When Poprishchin descends into madness and believes himself to be the long-lost king of Spain, he is hesitant to reveal himself initially, as he does not think he has a suitably royal outfit befitting his position. Clothing, to Poprishchin, is thus a symbol of social status and wealth; having the appropriate attire is crucial to being considered high-class and important.
Clothing is not, however, only the measure of one’s place in society; it also reveals its wearer’s true self in the story. When Poprishchin tailors himself a mantle to match his newfound status as king, he believes it to be appropriately royal, but it is really just fabric that he has torn haphazardly with scissors. His clothing, then, reveals his true mental state: he is not, in fact, a long-lost and royal king, but a man whose delusions have led him to believe in a fantasy. Clothing, then, can reveal both a person’s social standing, and is indicative of deeper psychological characteristics.
Attire and Clothing Quotes in The Diary of a Madman
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.