November 7, 2007

Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka and his Aunt

This story by Nicolai Gogol is about a simple man, Ivan. Ivan embodies the innocence of Gogol's characters such as Akaky from 'The Overcoat' and Piskarev from 'Nevsky Avenue'. This time Gogol does not use any supernatural or dark elements. Its a light-hearted story about a straightforward man and his doting but shrewd aunt. The aunt wants only good for Ivan and Gogol leads us through her schemes.

Gogol builds Ivan's character right from his childhood days. He is shown as a very timid boy who is very organized. Ivan refuses to get into fights even when taunted. This makes everyone like him. He grows up to be a soldier and is meticulous and organized as always. Ivan gets promoted in the military services but remains down-to-earth as always.

Ivan had inherited much land that is managed by his aunt. Gogol elaborately describes the efficiency with which Iva's aunt takes care of his estates. She comes across as a strong woman who can manage many people and work tirelessly. In fact, Gogol even goes to show that she was physically and mentally stronger than the younger Ivan. Her towering personality, strength of character and gift of gab makes her endearing.

Knowing his timidity, Ivan's aunt plans for his future. Ivan is shown to be at a loss to understand his aunt's plans for him. Simple as he is, he feels uncomfortable with her shrewd schemes, even though they are for his own good.

In this story, Gogol beautifully depicts the Ukrainian life in a typical farm. Gogol's style is not only to build a character, but also to build up the settings and surroundings as well. He dedicates a major chunk of 'Nevsky Avenue' to describe the surroundings in minutest details. He not only mentions the surroundings, but also describes how it changes during different times of the day. In 'The Overcoat' he gives us a feel of Ukrainian civil society. In 'The Terrible Vengeance' he describes life in the army. 'The Portrait' shows the life of a unrecognized painters as well as artists in high society.

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