Satirical and poignant, dramatist and novelist Nikolai Gogol’s The Diary of a Madman encompasses the detrimental effects of the social upon the psychological through the progression of the all-consuming madness ailing the protagonist, Poprishchin. Closely intertwined, these two variables allow Nikolai Gogol to portray St Petersburg’s social stratosphere as a falsely revered one; underneath the glamour of the thriving city, lays corruption, isolating individualism and a crushing emphasis on superficiality. In short, without rank, wealth and beauty, existence in the famed city was bleak, desperate, and in the case of Poprishchin, maddening. Penned by the protagonist, the diary carries the reader through his psychological journey, utilising sounds, sight and smells to create a breadcrumb trail across the virulent madness incubating in his mind. Gogol’s emphasis on smells in particular, is best seen in his eccentric and whimsical use of the organ responsible, the nose. Continually interjected, the ‘nose’ subtly depicts Poprishchin’s psychological complexes, the death of his hopes and dreams, the sexual anxiety and fear of emasculation haunting his being. Thus, the nose becomes a multifaceted entity and a fundamental tool through which Gogol traces the madness chipping away at the writer’s sanity, in order to accomplish his larger purpose of satirising life in St Petersburg, peeling back the cover of glamour and exposing the cold, unattractive truth of such a melancholy existence. Being one of two extremely important sensory organs in Gogolian literature, the nose is a prime vessel through which Proprishchin experiences his maddening world, and experiences his frustrations regarding the death of all possibility, progression and excitement in his life resulting from the stagnant, unenviable job, his empty love life and his ‘turtle’-like looks. Gogol views the nose as a direct point of contact with the environment. The nose is required to imbibe one’s surroundings, to process one’s experiences through smells, and to interpret these sensations to the fullest, whether these be negative or positive, as Poprishchin demonstrates. A comment on the oppressive, constricting atmosphere Poprishchin survives in, Gogol’s focus on the olfactory here serves to depict the complete assault on his protagonist’s sanity being wrought by his surroundings. The smell that “assails one’s olfactory nerves” and the “odour from under each house”, both depict not just the filth the city has physically accumulated, but more importantly, serve as metaphors for the sheer rottenness of the social structure, the desolation of its inhabitants, the creation of a breeding ground for illness both physical and mental, and the overall degeneration and decay that prevail, exuding this overwhelming ‘smell’ assaulting Poprishchin’s psyche. Despite how he “holds his nose” to protect himself, the reek and stench of the rotten society weigh him down, and becomes one of many forces eroding his sanity. Further, Gogol’s emphasis on the nose as a medium of sensation, interpretation and experience, allows it to be categorised as a prime sensual organ. To Poprishchin, it holds within its core the real worth of a man, which transforms it into a phallic symbol, the organ he views as his most sensually active part. The nose in this context becomes his most prominent feature, into which his dignity, identity and most importantly, his masculinity, are concentrated. The placement of his masculinity in the nose is evident when Poprishchin draws a comparison between himself and Sophia’s purported fiancé, saying, “Neither is his nose made of gold; it is just like mine or anyone else’s nose. He does not eat and cough, but smells and sneezes with it.” This comparison of noses is essentially one of masculinities. Delving deeper, this comparison indicates Poprishchin’s madness is in part due to his subconscious realisation of the fact that he is not, by anyone’s standards, eligible for Sophia, that neither she nor any woman he would ever desire would ever perceive him in a sexually desirable manner, and that realisation costs him another substantial chip at his sanity, a deterioration depicted once again, through Gogol’s use of the nose. Incorporating the nose as a phallic symbol within the text, a figure of a man’s masculinity, Gogol interjects the nose within a contemplative passage that highlights Poprushchin’s view of his nose as the representation of his masculinity, while keeping with Gogol’s greater purpose of exposing St Petersburg’s fallacies. As the madness penetrates the very core of Poprishchin’s being, the barriers demarcating the bounds of his creativity are removed, and his language becomes layered, complex and increasingly childlike. First, the reader encounters the ‘pungent smell’, this time of the moon, akin to that he describes on Citizen Street. The smell exemplifies once again, the rotten state of his existence, of the poisoning social system, and the ‘holding of noses’ in both cases depicts a severance of the sensual from the physical world.