‘Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka And His Aunt’ by Nikolai Gogol

Gogol, Nikolai 1832

Ivan Fyodorovich Shponka And His Aunt by Nikolai Gogol, 1832

The magic trick:

Rearranging various scenes and images from the story in a dream sequence

There is much to admire about this story. The descriptions of the setting are wonderful. The characterizations are hilarious. The wonderful frame around the story with the narrator lamenting the loss of half the story to his landlady using the notebook as baking papers had me rolling with laughter.

But let’s focus on Ivan Fyodorovich’s dream at the end. It serves almost like a greatest hits version of the story, culling highlights from the previous 20 pages and rearranging them in a surreal, threatening way. It recasts the story in a new light while pointing toward a new direction (if only the rest of the story hadn’t been put in the oven). And that’s quite a trick on Gogol’s part.

The selection:

Then suddenly he was hopping on one foot, and his aunt, looking at him, said with an imposing air, “Yes, you must hop, because you’re a married man now.” He turns to her, but the aunt is no longer an aunt but a belfry. And he feels that someone is pulling him on a rope up the belfry. “Who is pulling me?” Ivan Fyodorovich asks pitifully. “It’s me, your wife pulling you, because you’re a bell.” “No, I’m not a bell, I’m Ivan Fyodorovich!” he cries.

What do you think about this story? As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

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