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JAMA 100 Years Ago |

The Miser in the Great Russian Novel, "Dead Souls," as a Study of Senile Dementia.

JAMA. 2002;287(18):2330. doi:10.1001/jama.287.18.2330-JJY20012-3-1.
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Tchizh reviews Gogol's classic portrayal of "Plushkin, the miser," and contends that he is not the normal type of a miser but a pathologic type of senile dementia. His avarice is not a psychologic but a pathologic phenomenon, accompanied by his loss of moral sense, indifference to his children, grandchildren and social opinion, his uncleanliness, fear and distrust of every one, loss of the sense of taste and incapacity of experiencing either lasting joy or sorrow. He was in a state of constant apathy, with the exception of the sense of ownership of property. His mental faculties were so weak, especially his memory for recent events, that he was incapable of managing his affairs properly. He was unable to concentrate his attention, or distinguish between profit and loss, or appreciate the relative value of things. He lived wholly in the present; the future and outside interests did not exist for him. The sight of money and the remembrance of his bosom friend were the only things that could bring expression to his face. There was no purpose in his life. It was founded on his old habit of hoarding money, which he neither enjoyed himself nor allowed his children to enjoy. Habit accounts for his entire behavior. Gogol pictures the harm caused by such a man to society, to his family and to himself, and Tchizh urges a more rational attitude, based on the principles of psychiatry, toward this class of unfortunates to avoid the harm and suffering which they entail. If Gogol had written nothing else, he adds, this masterly representation of senile dementia would be sufficient to make his name immortal.


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