At the end of "The Overcoat" by Nikolai Gogol, the ghost of Akaky Akakyevitch disappears once the Very Important Official has reformed his ways. However, after that satisfying conclusion to the story, the story continues for one extra paragraph:

But many active and apprehensive persons could by no means reassure themselves, and asserted that the dead official still showed himself in distant parts of the city. And, in fact, one watchman in Kolomna saw with his own eyes the apparition come from behind a house; but being rather weak of body—so much so, that once upon a time an ordinary full-grown pig running out of a private house knocked him off his legs, to the great amusement of the surrounding public coachmen, from whom he demanded a groschen apiece for snuff, as damages—being weak, he dared not arrest him, but followed him in the dark, until, at length, the apparition looked round, paused, and inquired, “What do you want?” and showed such a fist as you never see on living men. The watchman said, “It’s of no consequence,” and turned back instantly. But the apparition was much too tall, wore huge mustaches, and, directing its steps apparently towards the Obukhoff Bridge, disappeared in the darkness of the night.
"The Overcoat", Nikolai Gogol

What's the purpose of this paragraph at the end here? Who is this other ghost, and how is he relevant to the story? Why is this paragraph included after the conclusion of Akaky's story?

2 Answers 2


It's implied it's the same person that took the overcoat from the protagonist(or his accomplice):

In the distance, goodness knows where, there was a gleam of light from some sentry box which seemed to be standing at the end of the world. Akaky Akakyevitch’s light-heartedness grew somehow sensibly less at this place. He stepped into the square, not without an involuntary — uneasiness, as though his heart had a foreboding of evil. He looked behind him and to both sides—it was as though the sea were all round him. “No, better not look,” he thought, and walked on, shutting his eyes, and when he opened them to see whether the end of the square were near, he suddenly saw standing before him, almost under his very nose, some men with moustaches; just what they were like he could not even distinguish.

There was a mist before his eyes and a throbbing in his chest. “I say the overcoat is mine!” said one of them in a voice like a clap of thunder, seizing him by the collar. Akaky Akakyevitch was on the point of shouting “Help” when another put a fist the size of a clerk’s head against his very lips, saying, “You just shout now.” Akaky Akakyevitch felt only that they took the overcoat off, and gave him a kick with their knees, and he fell on his face in the snow and was conscious of nothing more.

I guess, this exist to show that the original criminal was still roaming free unpunished. And bullying small weak people, like Akaky Akakyevitch (watchman's weakness is even highlighted).


It is, of course, impossible to anyone but the author himself to give the definitive answer. That being said, most likely reason is to end the story on a lighthearted note. Ending it at Akaky's death would have been too tragic, at the VIP's reformation too moralistic.

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