Dead Souls is a work of pure satire. There is no section of Russian society that this work doesn’t touch. It scorns the Russian bureaucracy, gentry, and society at large. Many of Gogol’s works are known for their satire, but I think none would equal this.
Using a simple story with an antihero, Gogol exposes the corruption, bribery, and despotism of Russian officials. A major part of the story is devoted to this exercise. Gogol brings to light how a “government” within the government operates hindering the established laws and regulations of the land. He shows how this “government’ within the government corrupts the whole system of governing to the social and economic detriment of Russia. Gogol’s pen doesn’t rest there. It extends to the gentry as well. He shows how the idleness, mismanagement, and greed of the landowners have considerably contributed to the poor living conditions of the peasants and the surfs. Gogol goes even further. He wields his pen against society, in general, to show how the dominating prejudice and vanity have helped to cultivate an ignorant and uncultured populace.
Gogol’s message is very strong. He sees that with the present state affairs, Russia cannot progress further. He doesn’t hesitate to point out the issues boldly so that people would begin to think that a change is necessary if they are to secure a better future for the generations to come. With a story bordering between reality and absurdity, this is the message that Gogol wants to convey through his Dead Souls.
But even though the message is powerful, Gogol wouldn’t have accomplished much had it not been for his writing. Gogol called Dead Souls an epic poem in verse. True to his description the poetic beauty, the adventure, and even the absurdity are interlaced to produce a light but clever and super satirical work. While the message holds your attention the writing absorbs you in it. I’ve read some of his works before but never was I captivated more. It is not a light and interesting story as such, the content is quite bleak, but I had such fun reading it which says a lot about his writing.
This is not a complete work, so my review is mostly formulated on the completed first part, but I don’t think there would be any lesser understanding or enjoyment of the book because it is incomplete. For me, this work is the best of Gogol, where he truly comes out as one of the most remarkable Russian authors.