The Diary of a Madman


Nikolai Gogol

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Diary of a Madman can help.

Ferdinand VIII Symbol Analysis

Ferdinand VIII  Symbol Icon

Ferdinand VIII is the made-up heir to the throne of Spain, and Poprishchin’s alter ego after he officially descends into insanity. After reading headlines in the newspaper, Poprishchin hears that Spain is missing a king and comes to believe he is the lost heir. Ferdinand VIII, as an alter ego, represents both Poprishchin’s desire to escape his circumstances and the fantasy of high-class freedom; although the identity is completely fabricated, it allows Poprishchin a sense of imaginary agency and authority.

By naming himself Ferdinand VIII, Poprishchin seeks to justify his unhappiness and separation from the worlda case of mistaken identity lets him avoid the reality and loneliness of his lackluster life. Poprishchin’s inability to fit into society has caused him to suffer from isolation and mania, but his creation of a mistaken identity allows him to rationalize that sense of disconnect without acknowledging the reality of his circumstances. In naming himself a king, moreover, Poprishchin is able to invent himself anew. He has always envied high-class status and believes his low social ranking has prevented him from everything he has desired, such as wealth and the attention of Sophie, his love interest. Thus Ferdinand VIII further comes to symbolize the promise of happiness and prosperity that Poprishchin believes is inherent to upper-class existence.

Ferdinand VIII Quotes in The Diary of a Madman

The The Diary of a Madman quotes below all refer to the symbol of Ferdinand VIII . 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.
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:
Get the entire The Diary of a Madman LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Diary of a Madman PDF

Ferdinand VIII Symbol Timeline in The Diary of a Madman

The timeline below shows where the symbol Ferdinand VIII appears in The Diary of a Madman. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The 86th of Martober. Between day and night.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Writing, Escapism, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
...hand him a paper to be signed, but instead of signing his name, he writes Ferdinand VIII to emphasize his royal status. (full context)
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
...see him; she begins to back away from him. Poprishchin does not announce himself as Ferdinand VIII but says that they will finally be together. He then walks out, thinking about how... (full context)
Date none. The day had no date.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
...that he was walking “incognito” through the neighborhood, and did not tell anyone he was Ferdinand VIII , the king of Spain. He claims he does not want to reveal himself without... (full context)
Madrid. Thirtieth Februarius
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The 25th.
Social Class and Status Theme Icon
Insanity Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
...him. Poprishchin hid “under a chair,” and his visitor calls him by multiple names including King Ferdinand , to get him to come out. Eventually, the inquisitor finds him, and chases him... (full context)