Despite his undistinguished beginnings, much that was characteristic of the later Gogol was already there in the boy. His love of clothing, for example. Later on, Gogol became practically the only male writer in Russian literature who had a fervent interest in women’s fashions. As a boy in Nezhin he loved to walk about, flipping open the folds of his coat, showing off the red checkered pattern on the lining. He dreamed some day of buying a blue frock coat with metallic buttons. Buttons were to play a role in much of his fiction. Why? One reason is for the very flippant sound of the word in Russian: “POO-guh-vitsa.” Gogol’s fiction is, above all, orchestrated for sounds and rhythms. The voice of the narration has ultimate importance. The voice is all.
Inspired by the romantic literature that he read as a schoolboy, Gogol was already developing that rhythmic prose with artistic effects in the letters he wrote home. Here is part of one of those letters: “My thoughts come flowing out into my letter, and, giddy with joy, with knowing there is someone to talk with, driving away all woe, they take their seats (my thoughts), the whole chaotic mob of them, in the shape of letters seating themselves on the paper.”