How the Two Ivans Quarrelled by Nikolai Gogol
Author: Nikolai Gogol
Genre: Short Story
“The Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich” (Повесть о том, как поссорился Иван Иванович с Иваном Никифоровичем, translit. Povest’ o tom, kak possorilsja Ivan Ivanovič s Ivanom Nikiforovičem), also known as “How the Two Ivans Quarrelled,” is a short story by Nikolai Gogol.
It was first published in 1835 in his short story collection Mirgorod. “How the Two Ivans Quarrelled” revolves around two close friends, Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Nikiforovich, who fall out over a petty quarrel. It is set in the Ukrainian town of Mirgorod. Mirgorod is the Russian pronunciation of Myrrhorod, which ironically means ‘city of peace’ in the context of this story.
Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Nikiforovich are two highly respected landowners in their community. Ivan Ivanovich is thin, refined, and well-spoken, while Ivan Nikiforovich is fat and coarse. Despite being the opposite, they are known to be best friends. Nonetheless, when Ivan Nikiforovich refuses to trade Ivan Ivanovich a rifle that interests him, their quarrel escalates and destroys their friendship forever.
2. Story Summary
Ivan Ivanovich and Ivan Nikiforovich are neighbors and best friends despite being polar opposites. Ivan Ivanovich is polite, well-spoken, tall, and thin, while Ivan Nikiforovich is coarse, straightforward, short, and fat. Both Ivans are highly respected landowners in their small town community of Mirgorod.
One day, Ivan Ivanovich is sitting on his porch when he notices his neighbor’s servant hanging some clothes and military implements out to dry. Among them is a Turkish rifle that appeals to him. He goes to Ivan Nikiforovich’s house and offers to trade a brown sow and two sacks of oats for the rifle. However, Ivan Nikiforovich refuses the offer and calls Ivan Ivanovich a goose, which enrages him and causes the two friends to fall out.
Ivan Nikiforovich builds a goose pen that intrudes into Ivan Ivanovich’s property to rub in the insult. In retaliation, Ivan Ivanovich destroys the goose pen at night but fears that Ivan Nikiforovich will burn his house down. Hence, he goes to the courthouse to file a claim against Ivan Nikiforovich.
At the courthouse, the judge is shocked to hear of the quarrel between the two friends. He urges Ivan Ivanovich to reconcile with Ivan Nikiforovich, but Ivan Ivanovich ignores his advice and leaves. Shortly after, Ivan Nikiforovich enters with his petition against Ivan Ivanovich. When Ivan Nikiforovich leaves, his petition is stolen by the brown sow belonging to Ivan Ivanovich.
Because of this, a new petition is filed. But the legal case between the two Ivans is archived, and no progress has been made. Sometime later, the police chief holds a party which Ivan Ivanovich attends, but Ivan Nikiforovich does not, as neither Ivan will go anywhere where the other is present. The party guests come up with the idea of helping the two Ivans make amends and send Anton Prokofievich to invite Ivan Nikiforovich to the party.
Eventually, Anton Prokofievich persuades Ivan Nikiforovich to come to the party. When Ivan Nikiforovich sits across the table from Ivan Ivanovich, both act normal and continue eating. After dinner, the party guests push the two Ivans together, hoping they will reconcile. They are on the verge of forgiving each other when Ivan Nikiforovich accidentally mentions the word ‘goose’ again. The word triggers Ivan Ivanovich, who storms off immediately.
Many years later, the narrator visits Mirgorod and meets the two Ivans again. Both are convinced that the court will soon settle the legal case in their favor. The narrator leaves dejected, remarking, “It is a depressing world, gentlemen!”