The image of the “little man” is a kind of generalized portrait of a non-noble or well-born, but poor, insulted by high-ranking co-workers of a petty official. It is a powerless person who is powerless before life and its circumstances. Captivated by the state machine and eternal need, sometimes he is capable of protest. However, the rebellion of the “little man” often has tragic consequences for him – insanity, falling, death.
For the first time the image of the “little man” is found on the pages of the famous “Travel from St. Petersburg to Moscow” by A. Radishchev. This image we find also in fables and plays by I. Krylov. At least remember the images of Princess Podchchipa and Prince Slushnya. Did not pass him by his attention and A. Pushkin (“Bronze Horseman”, “Stationmaster”).
But the theme of the “little man” sounded most vividly, fully and widely in the work of N. Gogol. And we are hardly mistaken if we say that from the work of N. Gogol the image of the “little man” begins its march through the pages of the works of Russian classics of the XIX century.
It is no accident that the cycle of novels in the work of N. Gogol is called “St. Petersburg”. The image of the “little man” is the product of a big city. If A. Pushkin discovered in a poor official a new dramatic character of a rebel and a denouncer, N. Gogol continued and
Struck by a picture of profound and irresistible social contradictions, in his work N. Gogol sets each other against each other, as if he confronts two hypostases of the capital. For example, in the story “Nevsky Prospekt” we see a crowd of officials with their wives during a prejudiced walk. But among all this mass of people there are no human faces, but only “whiskers… missed with unusual and amazing art under the tie, whiskers are satin, black as sable or charcoal,” the mustache “no pen, no brush is not depictable,” thousands of different hats and dresses. There is a feeling that we were on.
Exhibition of toilets, hairstyles and made smiles. All these people are striving to impress each other not with their human qualities, but with exquisite appearance. But behind this external elegance and brilliance lies something low, soulless and ugly. N. Gogol warns: “Oh, do not believe this Nevsky Prospekt! I always wrap my cloak tightly as I walk along it, and I try not to look at the objects at all.” All the deceit, the whole dream, everything is not what it seems! “
And among all this self-satisfied elegant crowd we meet a modest young man – the artist Piskarev. He is trusting, pure and in love with beauty. On Nevsky Prospect Piskarev meets a young beauty who seems to him the ideal of kindness and tenderness. And he follows the beauty that brings him to his house. But the house turns out to be an ordinary hangout, where those very good officials are drinking and smoking. They ridicule Piskarev’s high feelings. Deceived artist dies. His death is a tragic result of a clash with a brutal and dirty reality.
With disdain and contempt are those around and to the petty official Poprishchin from the “Notes of the Madman”. After all, he “does not have a penny for his soul,” and therefore he is “zero, nothing more.” The work of Poprishina consists in the daily fixing of feathers for the director of the department. The charm of the luxurious life of the nobility admires and represses the petty official. But in the general’s house they treat him like an inanimate object. And this causes a protest in the minds of Popriscina. He dreams of becoming a general “just to see how they will show up…” But even here the tragedy is triumphant – Poprishchin is going crazy.
The wild customs of the bureaucratic world, where not a person is valued, but his position and rank, is shown by N. Gogol and by the example of the misadventures of collegiate assessor Kovalev in the story “The Nose” and in the tragic story of the copyist of Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin’s stories in the story “Overcoat”.
Further development of the image of the “little man” was in the works of A. Herzen, N. Nekrasov, I. Goncharov, F. Dostoevsky, N. Leskov. Going from the pages of art classics in the early XX century, the “little man” made a revolution and became the nominal owner of a huge country.