The purpose of the novel was to demonstrate the flaws and faults of the Russian mentality and character. Gogol masterfully portrayed those defects through Paul Ivanovitch Chichikov (the main character) and the people whom he encounters in his endeavours.
These people are typical of the Russian middle-class of the time. Gogol himself saw it as an "epic poem in prose", and within the book as a "novel in verse". Despite supposedly completing the trilogy's second part, Gogol destroyed it shortly before his death.