The portrayal of the protagonist supports the idea that environmental oppression impacts the individual, which may result in the formation of deviant behavioral patterns. Early in the work, the protagonist’s appearance is describes as ordinary and rather sallow, stating “There is nothing we can do about [the protagonist appearance], it is all the fault of the St. Petersburg climate” (Gogol 234). While this statement at surface value seems to refer to the weather, it closely parallels the bureaucratic climate that, much like the weather, is a large and dismal force that the protagonist feels powerless to alter. Even the name of the character, Akaky Akakyevich, closely resembles the Russian term ‘okakat’ meaning to smear with excrement, or the term ‘caca’, which is of Greek origin but refers to excrement in many modern languages (Paul 1). A parallel is drawn between the oppression of the bureaucratic system, wherein a designated rank oppresses societal classes, and the oppression of the individual by his personal designation, in this case the character’s given name. This is supported by in the text by statements such as “with us, rank is something that must be stated before anything else”, highlighting the oppressive qualities of personal designations, such as rank (Gogol 234). Oppression on many levels shapes the traits of the protagonist, suggesting that environmental influences are responsible for future deviant behavior.
The protagonist at first negotiates a reality filled with oppression with acceptance; however, when his expectations are made higher by the prospect of a new overcoat, symbolic of a rise in the societal hierarchy, the character develops deviant personality traits, ultimately leading to his death and the wrath of his angry spirit. The author describes the Very Important Person as a character that