Analysis of Anton Chekhov’s Stories (2022)

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on September 28, 2019

In his lifetime, Anton Chekhov (29January 1860– 15 July 1904)gained considerable critical acclaim. In 1888, he won the Pushkin Prize for his fiction, and in 1900, he was selected to honorary membership in the Russian Academy of Sciences for both his fiction and his drama.

Chekhov’s fiction departs from the formulaic, heavily plotted story to mirror Russian life authentically, concentrating on characters in very ordinary circumstances that often seem devoid of conflict. A realist, Chekhov treads a fine line between detachment and a whimsical but sympathetic concern for his subjects. In his mature work, he is perhaps the most genial of Russian masters, compassionate and forgiving, seldom strident or doctrinaire. Equally important, that mature work reflects very careful artistry, worthy of study for its technique alone.

Analysis of Anton Chekhov’s Stories (1)

Anton Chekhov published his earliest stories and sketches in various popular magazines under pseudonyms, the most often used being “Antosha Chekhonte.” As that pen name hints, he was at first an unassuming and relatively compliant “hack,” willing to dash off careless pieces fashioned for the popular reader. Most are light, topical studies of social types, often running fewer than a thousand words. Many are mere sketches or extended jokes, often banal or cynical. Some are farces, built on caricatures. Others are brief parodies of popular genres, including the romantic novel. Few display much originality in subject. Still, in their technique, economy of expression, and themes, the early pieces prefigure some of Chekhov’s most mature work. In them, Chekhov experimented with point of view and most particularly the use of irony as a fictional device. He also established his preference for an almost scientific objectivity in his depiction of character and events, an insistence that, in the course of his career, he would have to defend against his detractors.

Chekhov’s penchant for irony is exemplified in his very first published story, “Pis’mo k uchenomu sosedu” (“A Letter to a Learned Neighbor”), which appeared in 1880. The letter writer, Vladimirovich, is a pompous, officious oaf who makes pretentious statements about science and knowledge with inane blunders in syntax, spelling, and diction, inadvertently revealing his boorish stupidity while trying to ingratiate himself with his erudite neighbor.

As does this sketch, many of Chekhov’s first pieces lampoon types found in Russian society, favorite satirical targets being functionaries in the czarist bureaucracy and their obsequious regard for their superiors. One sketch, “Smert’ chinovnika” (“The Death of a Government Clerk”), deals with a civil servant named Chervyakov who accidentally sneezes on a general and is mortified because he is unable to obtain the man’s pardon. After repeated rebukes, he resigns himself to defeat, lies down, and dies. His sense of self-worth is so intricately bound up in his subservient role that, unpardoned, he has no reason to continue living.

In another story, “Khameleon” (“The Chameleon”), Ochumelov, a police officer, vacillates between placing blame on a dog or the man whom the dog has bitten until it can be confirmed that the dog does or does not belong to a certain General Zhigalov. When it turns out that the dog belongs to the general’s brother, the officer swears that he will get even with the dog’s victim. Like so many other characters in Chekhov’s fiction, Ochumelov is a bully to his subordinates but an officious toady to his betters.

Other stories, not built on irony or a momentous event in the central character’s life, are virtually plotless fragments. Some chronicle the numbing effects of living by social codes and mores rather than from authentic inner convictions, while others record human expectations frustrated by a sobering and often grim reality. In several stories, Chekhov deals with childhood innocence encountering or narrowly evading an adult world that is sordid, deceitful, or perverse. For example, in “V more” (“At Sea”), a man decides to provide a sex education for his son by having him observe a newly married couple and a third man through a bulkhead peephole. Presumably to satisfy his own puerile interest, the father peeps first and is so mortified by what he sees that he does not allow his son to look at all.

Sometimes severely restricted by magazine requirements, Chekhov learned to be direct and sparse in statement. Many of his early stories have little or no exposition at all. The main character’s lineage, elaborate details of setting, authorial incursions— all disappear for economy’s sake. In his precipitous openings, Chekhov often identifies a character by name, identifies his class or profession, and states his emotional condition, all in a single sentence. Others open with a snippet of conversation that has presumably been in progress for some time. When he does set a scene with description, Chekhov does so with quick, deft, impressionistic strokes, with only the barest of details.

Chekhov also learned the value of symbols as guides to inner character. In “Melyuzga,” a pathetic clerk named Nevyrazimov is trying to write a flattering Easter letter to his superior, whom, in reality, he despises. Hoping for a raise, this miserable underling must grovel, which contributes to his self-loathing and self-pity. As he tries to form the ingratiating words, he spies a cockroach and takes pity on the insect because he deems its miserable existence worse than his own. After considering his own options, however, and growing more despondent, when he again spies the roach he squashes it with his palm, then burns it, an act which, as the last line divulges, makes him feel better. The destruction of the roach is a symbolic act. It seems gratuitous and pointless, but it reveals the dehumanizing effect that chinopochitanie, or “rank reverence,” has on the clerk. In destroying the roach, Nevyrazimov is able to displace some of the self-loathing that accompanies his self-pity. His misery abates because he is able, for a moment, to play the bully.

Despite the limitations that popular writing imposed, between 1880 and 1885 there is an advance in Chekhov’s work, born, perhaps, from a growing tolerance and sympathy for his fellow human beings. He gradually turned away from short, acrid farces toward more relaxed, psychologically probing studies of his characters and their ubiquitous misery and infrequent joy. In “Unter Prishibeev” (“Sergeant Prishibeev”), Chekhov again develops a character who is unable to adjust to change because his role in life has been too rigid and narrow. A subservient army bully, he is unable to mend his ways when returned to civilian life and torments his fellow townspeople through spying, intimidation, and physical abuse. His harsh discipline, sanctioned in the military, only lands him in jail, to his total astonishment.

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By 1886, Chekhov had begun to receive encouragement from the Russian literati, notably Dmitrí Grigorovich, who, in an important unsolicited letter, warned Chekhov not to waste his talents on potboilers. The impact on Chekhov was momentous, for he had received the recognition that he desired. Thereafter, he worked to perfect his craft, to master the literature nastroenija, or “literature of mood,” works in which a single, dominant mood is evoked and action is relatively insignificant.

This does not mean that all Chekhov’s stories are plotless or lack conflict. “Khoristka” (“The Chorus Girl”), for example, is a dramatic piece in method akin to the author’s curtain-raising farces based on confrontation and ironic turns. The singer, confronted by the wife of one of her admirers, an embezzler, gives the wife all of her valuables to redeem the philanderer’s reputation. His wife’s willingness to humble herself before a chorus girl regenerates the man’s love and admiration for his spouse. He cruelly snubs the chorus girl and, in rank ingratitude, leaves her alone in abject misery.

Other stories using an ironic twist leave the principal character’s fate to the reader’s imagination. “Noch’ pered sudom” (“The Night Before the Trial”) is an example. The protagonist, who narrates the story, makes a ludicrous blunder. On the eve of his trial for bigamy, he poses as a doctor and writes a bogus prescription for a woman. He also accepts payment from her husband, only to discover at the start of his trial that the husband is his prosecutor. The story goes no further than the man’s brief speculation on his approaching fate.

In yet another, more involved story, “Nishchii” (“The Beggar”), a lawyer, Skvortsov, is approached by a drunken and deceitful but resourceful beggar, Lushkov, whom he unmercifully scolds as a liar and a wastrel. He then sets Lushkov to work chopping wood, challenging him to earn his way through honest, hard work. Before long, Skvortsov persuades himself that he has the role of Lushkov’s redeemer and manages to find him enough work doing odd jobs to earn a meager livelihood. Eventually, growing respectable and independent, Lushkov obtains decent work in a notary’s office. Two years later, encountering Skvortsov outside a theater, Lushkov confides that it was indeed at Skvortsov’s house that he was saved—not, however, by Skvortsov’s scolding but by Skvortsov’s cook, Olga, who took pity on Lushkov and always chopped the wood for him. It was Olga’s nobility that prompted the beggar’s reformation, not the pompous moral rectitude of the lawyer.

In 1887, when Chekhov took the time to visit the Don Steppe, he was established as one of Russia’s premier writers of fiction.With the accolades, there almost inevitably came some negative criticism. A few of his contemporaries argued that Chekhov seemed to lack a social conscience, that he remained too detached and indifferent to humanity in a time of great unrest and need for reform. Chekhov never believed that his art should serve a bald polemical purpose, but he was sensitive to the unjust critical opinion that he lacked strong personal convictions. In much of his mature writing, Chekhov worked to dispel that misguided accusation.

For a time Chekhov came under the spell of Leo Tolstoy, his great contemporary, not so much for that moralist’s religious fervor but for his doctrine of nonresistance to evil. That idea is fundamental to “The Meeting.” In this tale, which in tone is similar to the didactic Russian folktales, a thief steals money from a peasant, who had collected it for refurbishing a church. The thief, baffled by the peasant’s failure to resist, gradually repents and returns the money.

The Steppe

In 1888, Chekhov wrote and published “Step’” (“The Steppe”), inspired by his journey across the Don Steppe. The story, consisting of eight chapters, approaches the novella in scope and reflects the author’s interest in trying a longer work, which Grigorovich had advised him to do. In method, the piece is similar to picaresque tales, in which episodes are like beads, linked only by a common string—the voyage or quest.

The main characters are a merchant, Kuznichov, his nine-year-old nephew, Egorushka, and a priest, Father Christopher, who set out to cross the steppe in a cart. The adults travel on business, to market wool, while Egorushka is off to school. The monotony of their journey is relieved by tidbits of conversation and brief encounters with secondary characters in unrelated episodes. Diversion for young Egorushka is provided by various denizens of the steppe. These minor characters, though delineated but briefly, are both picturesque and lifelike.

Some of the characters spin a particular tale of woe. For example, there is Solomon, brother to Moses, the Jewish owner of a posting house. Solomon, disgusted with human greed, has burned his patrimony and now wallows in self-destructive misery. Another miserable figure is Pantelei, an old peasant whose life has offered nothing but arduous work. He has nearly frozen to death several times on the beautiful but desolate steppe. Dymov, the cunning, mean-spirited peasant, is another wretch devoid of either grace or hope.

The story involves a realistic counterpart to the romantic quest, for the merchant and the priest, joined by the charming Countess Dranitskaya, seek the almost legendary figure, Varlamov. Thus, in a quiet, subdued way, the work has an epic cast to it. Its unity depends on imagery and thematic centrality of the impressions of Egorushka, whose youthful illusions play off against the sordid reality of the adult world. The journey to the school becomes for Egorushka a rite of passage, a familiar Chekhovian motif. At the end of the story, about to enter a strange house, the boy finally breaks into tears, feeling cut off from his past and apprehensive about his future.

“The Steppe” marks a tremendous advance over Chekhov’s earliest works. Its impressionistic description of the landscape is often poetic, and though, like most of Chekhov’s fiction, the work is open plotted, it is structurally tight and very compelling. The work’s hypnotic attraction comes from its sparse, lyrical simplicity and timeless theme. It is the first of the author’s flawless pieces.

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A Boring Story

Another long work, “Skuchnaia istoriia” (“A Boring Story”), shifts Chekhov’s character focus away from a youth first encountering misery in the world to an old man, Nikolai Stepanovich, who, near the end of life, finally begins to realize its stupefying emptiness. The professor is the narrator, although, when the story starts, it is presented in the third rather than the first person. It soon becomes apparent, however, that the voice is the professor’s own. The story is actually a diary, unfolding in the present tense.

The reader learns that although Stepanovich enjoys an illustrious reputation in public, of which he is extremely proud, in private he is dull and emotionally handicapped. Having devoted his life to teaching medicine, the value of which he never questions, the professor has sacrificed love, compassion, and friendship. He has gradually alienated himself from family, colleagues, and students, as is shown by his repeated failures to relate to them in other than superficial, mechanical ways. He admits his inability to communicate to his wife or daughter, and although he claims to love his ward, Katya, whom his wife and daughter hate, even she finally realizes that he is an emotional cripple and deserts him to run off with another professor who has aroused some jealousy in Nikolai.

The professor, his life dedicated to academe, has become insensitive to such things as his daughter Liza’s chagrin over her shabby coat or her feelings for Gnekker, her suitor, who, the professor suspects, is a fraud. Unable to understand his family’s blindness to Gnekker, whom he perceives as a scavenging crab, Nikolai sets out to prove his assumption. He goes to Kharkov to investigate Gnekker’s background and confirms his suspicions, only to discover that he is too late. In his absence, Liza and Gnekker have married.

Bordering on the tragic, “A Boring Story” presents a character who is unable to express what he feels. He confesses his dull nature, but, though honest with himself, he can confide in no one. Detached, he is able to penetrate the illusions of others, but his approach to life is so abstract and general as to hinder meaningful interpersonal relationships. Near the end of life, he is wiser but spiritually paralyzed by his conviction that he knows very little of human worth. One notes in “A Boring Story” Chekhov’s fascination with the fact that conversation may not ensure communication, and his treatment of that reality becomes a signatory motif in Chekhov’s later works, including his plays. Characters talk but do not listen, remaining in their own illusory worlds, which mere words will not let them share with others.

Analysis of Anton Chekhov’s Stories (2)

The Duel

“Duel” (“The Duel”), a long story, is representative of Chekhov’s most mature work. Its focal concern is with self-deception and rationalization for one’s failures. It pits two men against each other. The one, Laevsky, is a spineless, listless, and disillusioned intellectual who has miserably failed in life. The other, Von Koren, is an active, self-righteous zoologist who comes to despise the other man as a parasite.

In his early conversations with his friend Dr. Samoilenko, Laevsky reveals his tendency to place blame on civilization for human failings, a notion espoused by Jean- Jacques Rousseau and a host of other romantic thinkers. The doctor, whose mundane, pragmatic values simply deflect Laevsky’s lament, cannot understand his friend’s ennui and disenchantment with his mistress, Nadezhda Feydorovna. Laevsky perceives himself as a Hamlet figure, one who has been betrayed by Nadezhda, for whom he feels an increasing revulsion, which he masks with hypocritical sweetness. He envisions himself as being caught without purpose, vaguely believing that an escape to St. Petersburg without Nadezhda would provide a panacea for all of his ills.

Laevsky’s antagonist, Von Koren, is next introduced. Von Koren is a brash, outspoken, vain man who believes that Laevsky is worthy only of drowning. He finds Laevsky depraved and genetically dangerous because he has remarkable success with women and might father more of his parasitical type. During their encounters, Von Koren is aggressive and takes every chance to bait Laevsky, who is afraid of him.

Laevsky’s situation deteriorates when Nadezhda’s husband dies, and she, guilt ridden, looks to him to save her. Laevsky wants only to escape, however, and he runs off to Samoilenko, begging the doctor for a loan so he might flee to St. Petersburg. After confessing his depravity, he swears that he will send for Nadezhda after he arrives in St. Petersburg, but in reality he has no intention of doing so.

Caught up in his own web of lies and half-truths, Laevsky must deal with those of Nadezhda, who is carrying on affairs with two other men and who has her own deceitful plans of escape. Convinced that Samoilenko has betrayed him through gossiping about him, Laevsky starts an argument with him in the presence of Von Koren, who supports the doctor. The heated exchange ends with a challenge to a duel, gleefully accepted by Von Koren. The night before the duel, Laevsky is extremely frightened. He is petrified by the prospect of imminent death, and his lies and deceit weigh upon him heavily. He passes through a spiritual crisis paralleled by a storm that finally subsides at dawn, just as Laevsky sets out for the dueling grounds.

The duel turns into a comic incident. The duelists are not sure of protocol, and before they even start they seem inept. As it turns out, Laevsky nobly discharges his pistol into the air, and Von Koren, intent on killing his opponent, only manages to graze his neck. The duel has a propitious effect on both men. Laevsky and Nadezhda are reconciled, and he gives up his foolish romantic illusions and begins to live a responsible life. He is also reconciled to Von Koren, who, in a departing confession, admits that a scientific view of things cannot account for all life’s uncertainties. There is, at the end, a momentary meeting of the two men’s minds.

“The Duel” is representative of a group of quasi-polemical pieces that Chekhov wrote between 1889 and 1896, including “Gusev” (“Gusev”), “Palata No. 6” (“Ward Number Six”), and “Moia zhizn” (“My Life”). All have parallel conflicts in which antagonists are spokespersons for opposing ideologies, neither of which is capable of providing humankind with a definitive epistemology or sufficient guide to living.

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Rothschild’s Fiddle

Other mature stories from the same period deal with the eroding effect of materialism on the human spirit. “Skripka Rotshil’da” (“Rothschild’s Fiddle”) is a prime example. In this work, Yakov Ivanov, nicknamed Bronze, a poor undertaker, is the protagonist. Yakov, who takes pride in his work, also plays the fiddle and thereby supplements his income from coffin-making.

For a time, Yakov plays at weddings with a Jewish orchestra, whose members, inexplicably, he comes to hate, especially Rothschild, a flutist who seems determined to play even the lightest of pieces plaintively. Because of his belligerent behavior, after a time the Jews hire Yakov only in emergencies. Never in a good temper, Yakov is obsessed with his financial losses and his bad luck. Tormented by these matters at night, he can find some respite only by striking a solitary string on his fiddle.

When his wife, Marfa, becomes ill, Yakov’s main concern is what her death will cost him. She, in contrast, dies untroubled, finding in death a welcome release from the wretchedness that has been her lot married to Yakov. In her delirium, she does recall their child, who had died fifty years earlier, and a brief period of joy under a willow tree by the river, but Yakov can remember none of these things. Only when she is buried does Yakov experience depression, realizing that their marriage had been loveless.

Sometime later Yakov accidentally comes upon and recognizes the willow tree of which Marfa had spoken. He rests there, beset by visions and a sense of a wasted past, regretting his indifference to his wife and his cruelty to the Jew, Rothschild. Shortly after this epiphany, he grows sick and prepares to die. Waiting, he plays his fiddle mournfully, growing troubled by not being able to take his fiddle with him to the grave. At his final confession, he tells the priest to give the fiddle to Rothschild, in his first and only generous act. Ironically, the fiddle for Rothschild becomes a means of improving his material well-being.

As “Rothschild’s Fiddle” illustrates, Chekhov continued his efforts to fathom the impoverished spirit of his fellow man, often with a sympathetic, kindly regard. Most of his last stories are written in that vein. Near the end of the 1890’s, Chekhov gave increasing attention to his plays, which, combined with his ill health, reduced his fictional output. Still, between 1895 and his last fictional piece, “Nevesta” (“The Bride”), published in 1902, he wrote some pieces that rank among his masterpieces.

As in “Rothschild’s Fiddle,” Chekhov’s concern with conflicting ideologies gives way to more fundamental questions about human beings’ ability to transcend their own nature. He examines characters who suffer desperate unhappiness, anxiety, isolation, and despair, experienced mainly through the characters’ inability either to give or to accept love. He also, however, concerns himself with its antithesis, the suffocating potential of too much love, which is the thematic focus of “Dushechka” (“The Darling”).

The Darling

In this story, Olenka, the protagonist, is a woman who seems to have no character apart from her marital and maternal roles. She is otherwise a cipher who, between husbands, can only mourn, expressing her grief in folk laments. She has no important opinions of her own, only banal concerns with petty annoyances such as insects and hot weather. She comes to life only when she fulfills her role as wife and companion to her husband, whose opinions and business jargon she adopts as her own, which, to her third husband, is a source of great annoyance.

Ironically, alive and radiant in love, Olenka seems to suck the life out of those whom she adores. For example, her love seems to cause the demise of her first husband, Kukin, a wretched, self-pitying theater manager. Only in the case of her last love, that for her foster son, Sasha, in her maternal role, does Olenka develop opinions of her own. Her love, however, ever suffocating, instills rebellion in the boy and will clearly lead to Olenka’s downfall.

The Bride

By implication, the comic, almost sardonic depiction of Olenka argues a case for the emancipation of women, a concern to which Chekhov returns in “Nevesta” (“The Bride”). This story deals with a young woman, Nadya, who attempts to find an identity independent of roles prescribed by traditional mores and the oppressive influence of her mother, Nina, and her grandmother.

Nadya, at the age of twenty-three, is something of a dreamer. As the story begins, she is vaguely discontent with her impending marriage to Andrew, son to a local canon of the same name. Her rebellion against her growing unhappiness is encouraged by Sasha, a distant relative who becomes her sympathetic confidant. He constantly advises Nadya to flee, to get an education and free herself from the dull, idle, and stultifying existence that the provincial town promises.

When Andrew takes Nadya on a tour of their future house, she is repulsed by his vision of their life together, finding him stupid and unimaginative. She confides in her mother, who offers no help at all, claiming that it is ordinary for young ladies to get cold feet as weddings draw near. Nadya then asks Sasha for help, which, with a ruse, he provides. He takes Nadya with him to Moscow and sends her on to St. Petersburg, where she begins her studies.

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After some months, Nadya, very homesick, visits Sasha in Moscow. It is clear to her that Sasha, ill with tuberculosis, is now dying. She returns to her home to deal with her past but finds the atmosphere no less oppressive than before, except that her mother and grandmother now seem more pathetic than domineering. After a telegram comes announcing Sasha’s death, she leaves again for St. Petersburg, resolved to find a new life severed completely from her old.

As well as any story, “The Bride” illustrates why Chekhov is seen as the chronicler of twilight Russia, a period of stagnation when the intelligentsia seemed powerless to effect reform and the leviathan bureaucracy and outmoded traditions benumbed the people and robbed the more sensitive of spirit and hope. Although the contemporary reader of Chekhov’s fiction might find that pervasive, heavy atmosphere difficult to fathom, particularly in a comic perspective, no one can doubt Chekhov’s mastery of mood.

With Guy de Maupassant in France, Chekhov is rightly credited with mastering the form, mood, and style of the type of short fiction that would be favored by serious English-language writers from Virginia Woolf and James Joyce onward. His impact on modern fiction is pervasive.

Principal short fiction • Skazki Melpomeny, 1884; Pystrye rasskazy, 1886; Nevinnye rechi, 1887; V sumerkakh, 1887; Rasskazy, 1888; The Tales of Tchehov, 1916-1922 (13 volumes); The Undiscovered Chekhov: Forty-three New Stories, 1999 (revised and expanded, 2001).

Major works
Plays: Platonov, wr. 1878-1881, pb. 1923 (English translation, 1930); Ivanov, pr., pb. 1887 (revised, pr. 1889; English translation, 1912); Medved, pr., pb. 1888 (A Bear, 1909); Leshy, pr. 1889 (The Wood Demon, 1925); Predlozheniye, pb. 1889, pr. 1890 (A Marriage Proposal, 1914); Svadba, pb. 1889, pr. 1890 (The Wedding, 1916); Yubiley, pb. 1892 (The Jubilee, 1916); Chayka, pr. 1896 (revised pr. 1898, pb. 1904; The Seagull, 1909); Dyadya Vanya, pb. 1897, pr. 1899 (based on his play The Wood Demon; Uncle Vanya, 1914); Tri sestry, pr., pb. 1901 (revised pb. 1904; The Three Sisters, 1920); Vishnyovy sad, pr., pb. 1904 (The Cherry Orchard, 1908); The Plays of Chekhov, pb. 1923- 1924 (2 volumes); Nine Plays, pb. 1959; The Complete Plays, pb. 2006 (Laurence Senelick, editor).

Miscellaneous: The Works of Anton Chekhov, 1929; Polnoye sobraniye sochineniy i pisem A. P. Chekhova, 1944-1951 (20 volumes); The Portable Chekhov, 1947; The Oxford Chekhov, 1964-1980 (9 volumes).
Nonfiction: Ostrov Sakhalin, 1893-1894; Letters on the Short Story, the Drama, and Other Literary Topics, 1924; The Selected Letters of Anton Chekhov, 1955.

Bibliography
Bartlett, Rosamund Chekhov: Scenes from a Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Anton Chekhov. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.
Clyman, Toby, ed. A Chekhov Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985.
Flath, Carol A. “The Limits to the Flesh: Searching for the Soul in Chekhov’s ‘A Boring Story.’” Slavic and East European Journal 41 (Summer, 1997): 271-286.
Gottlieb, Vera, and Paul Allain, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Chekhov. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Johnson, Ronald J. Anton Chekhov: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.
Lantz, K. A. Anton Chekhov: A Reference Guide to Literature. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985.
Malcolm, Janet. Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey. New York: Random House, 2001.
Martin, DavidW. “Chekhov and the Modern Short Story in English.” Neophilologus 71 (1987): 129-143.
May, Charles E., ed. Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition. 8 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2004.
Prose, Francine. “Learning from Chekhov.” Western Humanities Review 41 (1987): 1- 14.

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FAQs

What are the main topics in Chekhov's stories? ›

Themes
  • Death and Disease. Disease features prominently in Chekhov's stories, and his protagonists often suffer tragic and untimely deaths. ...
  • Disillusionment and Failed Ideals. Chekhov's stories examine many kinds of disappointment and failed ideals. ...
  • The Breakdown of Aristocratic Society.

What is the theme of the story old age by Anton Chekhov? ›

In Old Age by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of change, loss, renewal, memories, guilt and despair. Taken from his The Complete Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and very early on in the story the reader realises that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of change.

What is Anton Chekhov's writing style? ›

Indeed, his economical use of language and ambivalent style—Chekhov weaves humor with pathos to magnify the inconsequential details of people's lives—helped redefine the short story genre. He also developed a technique of ending stories with what have been termed "zero endings"—or anti-climactic conclusions.

What is the theme of the orator by Anton Chekhov? ›

Chekhov's short story "The Orator" tells of a rather embarrassing situation when a famous orator stands in front of a crowd at a funeral ceremony. Filled with satire towards and critique of the hypocritical and petty-minded people, Chekhov masterfully presents the world as a reflection in the eyes of a dead man.

How does Chekhov view society? ›

Chekhov also intentionally refrained from delivering moral or political sermons in his literary works or his public statements. Born into the first generation of a family of freed serfs, Chekhov felt that inner freedom was more important than political or social freedom.

Why is Chekhov important? ›

Why is Anton Chekhov so influential? Chekhov captured life in the Russia of his time by using a deceptively simple technique devoid of obtrusive literary devices. He is regarded as the outstanding representative of late 19th-century Russian realism.

What could be the subject or theme of the story the lemon by Anton Chekhov? ›

Explanation: The subject of the story The lament by Anton Chekhov is misery of life or hardships of life.

What is the Chekhov situation? ›

'Chekhov's Gun' is a concept that describes how every element of a story should contribute to the whole. It comes from Anton Chekhov's famous book writing advice: 'If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.

How is Chekhov's story a satirical comment on human thoughts and aspirations? ›

In his short story "The Lottery Ticket," Anton Chekhov satirizes people's inability to maintain their contentment or to generate their own happiness.

What influenced Anton Chekhov's writing? ›

Early Writing Career

His story “The Steppe” was an important success, earning its author the Pushkin Prize in 1888. Like most of Chekhov's early work, it showed the influence of the major Russian realists of the 19th century, such as Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Was Chekhov a realist? ›

In many ways, Chekhov's commitment to realism, both in terms of dramatic form and acting technique, was more consistent than Stanislavski's. Chekhov knew that a realistic form of acting was needed in order to achieve the realistic form of drama he was writing.

Who influenced Anton Chekhov? ›

Anton Chekhov

What is the main theme in Anton Chekhov's The Lament sparknotes? ›

The central theme of the story, as the title would suggest, is "Misery." Iona Potapov, the driver, takes several fares and each time tries to share his grief with his passengers.

What is the climax in the Bet by Anton Chekhov? ›

The climax of the short story, or the main turning event, is when the banker starts to see that the young man would win the bet, so he decides it to kill the man, but when he is about to do it, he finds a letter the young man had wrote saying that he will not accept the money the banker was supposed to give him.

What is the theme of the story a day in the country? ›

The theme of the story a day in the country by anton checklov is all about the creation. How good and wonderful it is. And it is also about making friends. We have a lot of inspiring stories.

What is the meaning of life in the bet? ›

Anton Chekhov's “The Bet” sets up a seemingly simple bet about the nature and value of life. The banker, who believes that the death penalty is more humane and moral than life imprisonment, argues that experiences, pleasures, and relationships are what make life worth living.

What is the moral of the story the bet? ›

The moral of Anton Chekhov's "The Bet" is that materialism and material wealth ultimately means nothing.

Why did Chekhov call his plays comedies? ›

He has been locked in the house, which is soon to be demolished. So, he lies down on the stage and waits—for someone to come back, or simply for death to come get him. The scene can be played tragically, but it works better as farce. This is one reason why Chekhov insisted on calling the play a comedy.

Is Chekhov absurdist? ›

The form and the technique of indirect dialogue that Chekhov employed to present this existential paradox of human life in his plays greatly influenced the absurdist dramatists. He is one of the forefathers of the Theatre of the Absurd.

Is Chekhov naturalist? ›

HE most important dramatist which Russia has so far produced is Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), a physician of Moscow who left, besides many fine short stories, a few dramas which are strikingly original. Chekhov combined a naturalistic method with a philosophic mind and a humanitarian gentleness of temper.

Why does Iona decide to tell his story to the horse? ›

Why does Iona decide to tell his story to the horse? So that the horse will understand why he didn't make enough money to buy oats. Because speaking about his sadness will make him feel better, even if it is only to a horse. Because the horse once had a colt that died, and will understand how he must feel.

Who is Iona what impression of his character do you get from this story? ›

Answer : Iona, the protagonist of the story, was an old cab driver. He was like a phantom in the society because he was lonely and longed for a companion to share his emotions. He had recently lost his only son and family member and felt intense grief and sorrow at his terrible loss.

What is literary devices in a story? ›

A literary device is a writing technique that writers use to express ideas, convey meaning, and highlight important themes in a piece of text. A metaphor, for instance, is a famous example of a literary device. These devices serve a wide range of purposes in literature.

What did Chekhov say? ›

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” “Perhaps man has a hundred senses, and when he dies only the five senses that we know perish with him, and the other ninety-five remain alive.”

Which aspects of human Behaviour does the story highlight what does The Lottery Ticket symbolize? ›

The lottery ticket symbolizes how riches, or the promise of riches, can corrupt people's souls. The imminent prospect of winning the lottery is enough to drive a wedge between Ivan and Masha, potentially jeopardizing their marriage.

What does The Lottery Ticket symbolize? ›

In Anton Chekhov's short story "The Lottery Ticket," the wife's lottery ticket symbolizes greed and materialistic wealth.

Was the ending of the story The Lottery Ticket justified? ›

Yes the story's end is justified because with the hatred they had, they could've hurt each other physically and mentally.

How did Chekhov support himself? ›

When he was 15 years old, his family was forced to flee Taganrog due to bankruptcy and move to the city slums of Moscow. For sometime, Chekhov remained in his hometown and supported himself through private tutoring.

What is the principle of Chekhov's gun? ›

Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that suggests that details within a story or play will contribute to the overall narrative. This encourages writers to not make false promises in their narrative by including extemporaneous details that will not ultimately pay off by the last act, chapter, or conclusion.

What are the characteristics of realism? ›

What are the 4 characteristics of realism?
  • Realistic characters and setting.
  • Comprehensive detail about everyday occurrences.
  • Plausible plot (a story that could happen in your town)
  • Real dialects of the area.
  • Character development important.
  • Importance in depicting social class.
Jul 1, 2022

What is a Chekhov play? ›

Anton Chekhov

How many short stories did Chekhov write? ›

Chekhov wrote over 500 short stories.

Why did Chekhov write the bet? ›

Anton Chekhov wrote "The Bet" to express specific themes, especially ones related to the value of knowledge and the meaning of life.

What is irony Misery? ›

The irony in "Misery" is all contained in the fact that the simple old man imagines he can communicate his misery with a dumb animal. Irony is usually something that would be funny if it were not so painful or pathetic. Some people might laugh at him if they saw him.

Who is the hero of the story the lament? ›

Iona the main character in the story is a poor cab driver, who has lost his son and is mourning his death.

What is the plot of the story the lament? ›

The story tells about a father and his great despair for his dead son. Iona, the father, is a Russian sleigh driver who desperately tried to share his grief with strangers. Iona wanted someone to listen to him, to somehow feel his grief, in order for him to feel better.

What is the conflict in the story The Bet? ›

What is the conflict in the short story The Bet by Anton Chekhov ? Solution : Anton Chekhov's "The Bet" focuses on a conflict between a banker and a young lawyer who enter into a disagreement at a party hosted by the banker.

What is the resolution of the story of The Bet? ›

The resolution resolution to "The Bet" is when the banker goes to the lodge the morning after finding the note, and he learns that the lawyer had escaped, and that he got to keep his two million dollars.

What literary devices are used in The Bet? ›

Throughout “The Bet,” Chekhov employs a variety of literary devices to create a sense of realism. He uses a concise two-part story structure, ample metaphors and similes, and frequent foreshadowing to delineate between the two main characters and drive the plot forward.

What is the main theme in Anton Chekhov's The Lament sparknotes? ›

The central theme of the story, as the title would suggest, is "Misery." Iona Potapov, the driver, takes several fares and each time tries to share his grief with his passengers.

What is the message given in the story gooseberries? ›

Happiness, Suffering, and Meaning

In “Gooseberries,” Ivan Ivanych is highly skeptical of those who pursue happy, comfortable lives—he believes that suffering is the precursor to a meaningful life, and that chasing happiness is the wrong path because it leads to stagnation and complacency.

What could be the subject or theme of the story the lemon by Anton Chekhov? ›

Explanation: The subject of the story The lament by Anton Chekhov is misery of life or hardships of life.

What is the Chekhov situation? ›

'Chekhov's Gun' is a concept that describes how every element of a story should contribute to the whole. It comes from Anton Chekhov's famous book writing advice: 'If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.

What is the moral of the lament story? ›

The story is a stinging rebuke of the modern society where there seems to the insurmountable distance between people who live and breathe the same air and eat the same food but are too busy to share each other's sorrows. Sometimes all it takes is patience and good intentions but they seem to be getting rare to find.

What is irony Misery? ›

The irony in "Misery" is all contained in the fact that the simple old man imagines he can communicate his misery with a dumb animal. Irony is usually something that would be funny if it were not so painful or pathetic. Some people might laugh at him if they saw him.

Who is the hero of the story the lament? ›

Iona the main character in the story is a poor cab driver, who has lost his son and is mourning his death.

What do the gooseberries symbolize? ›

Nikolai's gooseberries represent the idea that people tend to delude themselves into happiness rather than accepting the truth. For over 20 years, Nikolai lives an extremely frugal lifestyle in order to save toward his ultimate dream of owning a country estate.

What is the significance of the title gooseberries? ›

Answer: The story is titled 'Gooseberries' because life is very much like gooseberries. Gooseberries are sour and sweet. Similarly life too is sour (bitter) and sweet.

What purpose does the first sentence serve? ›

1 Answer. The first sentence serves as a suitable introduction to a story which itself talks about a sad and gloomy situation.

What influenced Anton Chekhov's writing? ›

Early Writing Career

His story “The Steppe” was an important success, earning its author the Pushkin Prize in 1888. Like most of Chekhov's early work, it showed the influence of the major Russian realists of the 19th century, such as Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Who influenced Anton Chekhov? ›

Anton Chekhov

Why does Iona decide to tell his story to the horse? ›

Why does Iona decide to tell his story to the horse? So that the horse will understand why he didn't make enough money to buy oats. Because speaking about his sadness will make him feel better, even if it is only to a horse. Because the horse once had a colt that died, and will understand how he must feel.

What is literary devices in a story? ›

A literary device is a writing technique that writers use to express ideas, convey meaning, and highlight important themes in a piece of text. A metaphor, for instance, is a famous example of a literary device. These devices serve a wide range of purposes in literature.

What did Chekhov say? ›

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” “Perhaps man has a hundred senses, and when he dies only the five senses that we know perish with him, and the other ninety-five remain alive.”

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