Dead Souls Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 45 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Dead Souls.
This section contains 703 words
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Dead Souls Summary & Study Guide Description

Dead Souls Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol.

Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol, is a satirical examination of 1800's Russian nobility and society. The work is often called Gogol's greatest. It is also considered a Russian prose poem. In post-Napoleonic Russia, landowners owned serfs who worked the land. A man's wealth was not only determined by the amount of land he had, but also by the number of souls he owned. Tchitchikov, the protagonist, and proclaimed hero of the story decides to purchase dead souls in order to become rich. Because a census is taken every year, he can buy the souls cheaper and then claim the dead souls as his own. The novel follows the exploits of Tchitchikov as he travels throughout the Russian countryside in the quest to buy souls from wealthy landowners.

As the novel begins, Tchitchikov, a collegiate scholar, arrives in the town of N. At once, everyone in town is excited that a stranger has come to visit. Tchitchikov goes to visit many influential people and makes a very good first impression on all of them. He gets numerous invitations to go and visit new friends who live on the countryside. No one in the town of N knows Tchitchikov's true reasons for his visit.

Tchitchikov first goes to see Manilov, who is quite take with Tchitchikov. He wishes nothing more than to be very close friends with him. In order to accomplish that, he readily agrees to sell Tchitchikov souls. Tchitchikov then decides to visit Sobakevitch, another man he met in town. Tchitchikov first gets waylaid by a storm and is forced to seek refuge at the home of Madame Korobotchka. The next day, Tchitchikov begins talking with the woman. He feels he can trust her and asks if she would also like to sell him her dead souls. Madame Korobotchka wishes that he would buy something else of hers but agrees to sell him the souls. Tchitchikov again sets out to visit Sobakevitch before he gets off track again.

Tchitchikov decides to stop for food at the local tavern and runs into Nozdroyov, another man that he met in town. Nozdroyov is very charming and persuades Tchitchikov to visit his home. After dinner and drinks, Tchitchikov tells Nozdroyov about his plan. He immediately regrets doing so because Nozdroyov becomes cocky and rude. He refuses to sell the souls to Tchitchikov. He then challenges Tchitchikov to a card game; when Tchitchikov refuses him, Nozdroyov becomes violent. Tchitchikov only escapes because a police officer comes to arrest Nozdroyov for getting into a brawl a couple of nights before. Tchitchikov quickly flees.

Tchitchikov then decides to finally make his way Sobakevitch's house and then decides to return to the town. Once he arrives, he makes his purchases of the dead souls final. Tchitchikov cannot believe his good luck. He has now purchased over four-hundred souls. Soon, news travels all throughout the town that Tchitchikov is a very rich man. Everyone wants to talk about him. At a ball given by another influential man in town, Tchitchikov is the only topic of conversation. As Tchitchikov tries to enjoy the ball, Nozdroyov enters the ballroom. He begins shouting at Tchitchikov about the dead souls. Everyone is very perplexed. They do not know what Nozdroyov is talking about.

The next day Tchitchikov falls ill, so he is not able to go on his normal visits. To his dismay, however, Madam Korobotchka comes into town; she is dreadfully afraid that Tchitchikov has charged her too much for the dead souls. Soon word spreads all over town that Tchitchikov is actually buying dead souls. Other vicious rumors are also spread about Tchitchikov. He is so embarrassed about the news that he flees.

In the second part of the novel, Tchitchikov is still traveling through Russia attempting to buy dead souls. He again collects many influential friends and clings to them for their money, power and success. Tchitchikov continues to scheme and come up with short-lived plans to get more money but only ever accomplishes fleeting success. As the novel ends, Tchitchikov has stolen money from a dying woman and is being charged and arrested for his actions. Only because of his wealthy and powerful friends, is he released.

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