Dead Souls is a socially critical black comedy. Set in Russia before the emancipation of serfs in 1861, the "dead souls" are dead serfs still being counted by landowners as property, as well as referring to the landowners' morality. Through surreal and often dark comedy, Gogol criticizes Russian society after the Napoleonic Wars. He intended to also offer solutions to the problems he satirized, but died before he ever completed the second part of what was intended to be a trilogy. The work famously ends mid-sentence.

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