Gogol is fascinated with dealing with that which is both ‘there’ and ‘not there’. In ‘Dead Souls’ the titular character(s) are both non-existent human beings long since burined in the ground AND they are corporal entities making up the better part of an inventory and balance sheet. In ‘The Overcoat’ Gogol begins with a stolen coat that the main character spends all story trying to recover and the whole thing ends with a ghost and a haunting.
Here, Gogol’s exploration of the ‘there’ and ‘not there’ is taken to its illogical and comical conclusion: a nose has gone missing and is spending its days going about town as a respectable official. The whole idea is absurd and impossible and defies any analysis beyond that of a writer having a bit of fun with the reader the way an uncle has with his nephew when he ‘steals’ his nose.
And that’s what makes it so much fun to read: it’s funny, it’s absolutely silly, but it also feels somehow right and real. Somehow it feels as if just below the ice crust surface of this story there is a deeper meaning, an interpretation that we could all get on board with (and here is where I absolutely reject Freudian analysis as any rational person should).
Maybe the whole point is like that of ‘Three Men In A Boat’, a comical tale that pretty much goes nowhere but feels right in the moment you experience it.