Misery (The Lament) by Anton Chekhov (2022)

“To whom shall I tell my grief?”

The twilight of evening. Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, horses’ backs, shoulders, caps. Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost. He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent. If a regular snowdrift fell on him it seems as though even then he would not think it necessary to shake it off. . . . His little mare is white and motionless too. Her stillness, the angularity of her lines, and the stick-like straightness of her legs make her look like a halfpenny gingerbread horse. She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes, and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people, is bound to think.

It is a long time since Iona and his nag have budged. They came out of the yard before dinnertime and not a single fare yet. But now the shades of evening are falling on the town. The pale light of the street lamps changes to a vivid color, and the bustle of the street grows noisier.

“Sledge to Vyborgskaya!” Iona hears. “Sledge!”

Iona starts, and through his snow-plastered eyelashes sees an officer in a military overcoat with a hood over his head.

“To Vyborgskaya,” repeats the officer. “Are you asleep? To Vyborgskaya!”

In token of assent Iona gives a tug at the reins which sends cakes of snow flying from the horse’s back and shoulders. The officer gets into the sledge. The sledge-driver clicks to the horse, cranes his neck like a swan, rises in his seat, and more from habit than necessity brandishes his whip. The mare cranes her neck, too, crooks her stick-like legs, and hesitatingly sets of. . . .

“Where are you shoving, you devil?” Iona immediately hears shouts from the dark mass shifting to and fro before him. “Where the devil are you going? Keep to the r-right!”

“You don’t know how to drive! Keep to the right,” says the officer angrily.

A coachman driving a carriage swears at him; a pedestrian crossing the road and brushing the horse’s nose with his shoulder looks at him angrily and shakes the snow off his sleeve. Iona fidgets on the box as though he were sitting on thorns, jerks his elbows, and turns his eyes about like one possessed as though he did not know where he was or why he was there.

(Video) Misery or The Lament l Short Story l by Anton Chekhov l Summary

“What rascals they all are!” says the officer jocosely. “They are simply doing their best to run up against you or fall under the horse’s feet. They must be doing it on purpose.”

Iona looks as his fare and moves his lips. . . . Apparently he means to say something, but nothing comes but a sniff.

“What?” inquires the officer.

Iona gives a wry smile, and straining his throat, brings out huskily: “My son . . . er . . . my son died this week, sir.”

“H’m! What did he die of?”

Iona turns his whole body round to his fare, and says:

“Who can tell! It must have been from fever. . . . He lay three days in the hospital and then he died. . . . God’s will.”

“Turn round, you devil!” comes out of the darkness. “Have you gone cracked, you old dog? Look where you are going!”

“Drive on! drive on! . . .” says the officer. “We shan’t get there till to-morrow going on like this. Hurry up!”

The sledge-driver cranes his neck again, rises in his seat, and with heavy grace swings his whip. Several times he looks round at the officer, but the latter keeps his eyes shut and is apparently disinclined to listen. Putting his fare down at Vyborgskaya, Iona stops by a restaurant, and again sits huddled up on the box. . . . Again the wet snow paints him and his horse white. One hour passes, and then another. . . .

Three young men, two tall and thin, one short and hunchbacked, come up, railing at each other and loudly stamping on the pavement with their goloshes.

“Cabby, to the Police Bridge!” the hunchback cries in a cracked voice. “The three of us, . . . twenty kopecks!”

(Video) MISERY by Anton Chekhov - FULL AudioBook

Iona tugs at the reins and clicks to his horse. Twenty kopecks is not a fair price, but he has no thoughts for that. Whether it is a rouble or whether it is five kopecks does not matter to him now so long as he has a fare. . . . The three young men, shoving each other and using bad language, go up to the sledge, and all three try to sit down at once. The question remains to be settled: Which are to sit down and which one is to stand? After a long altercation, ill-temper, and abuse, they come to the conclusion that the hunchback must stand because he is the shortest.

“Well, drive on,” says the hunchback in his cracked voice, settling himself and breathing down Iona’s neck. “Cut along! What a cap you’ve got, my friend! You wouldn’t find a worse one in all Petersburg. . . .”

“He-he! . . . he-he! . . .” laughs Iona. “It’s nothing to boast of!”

“Well, then, nothing to boast of, drive on! Are you going to drive like this all the way? Eh? Shall I give you one in the neck?”

“My head aches,” says one of the tall ones. “At the Dukmasovs’ yesterday Vaska and I drank four bottles of brandy between us.”

“I can’t make out why you talk such stuff,” says the other tall one angrily. “You lie like a brute.”

“Strike me dead, it’s the truth! . . .”

“It’s about as true as that a louse coughs.”

“He-he!” grins Iona. “Me-er-ry gentlemen!”

“Tfoo! the devil take you!” cries the hunchback indignantly. “Will you get on, you old plague, or won’t you? Is that the way to drive? Give her one with the whip. Hang it all, give it her well.”

Iona feels behind his back the jolting person and quivering voice of the hunchback. He hears abuse addressed to him, he sees people, and the feeling of loneliness begins little by little to be less heavy on his heart. The hunchback swears at him, till he chokes over some elaborately whimsical string of epithets and is overpowered by his cough. His tall companions begin talking of a certain Nadyezhda Petrovna. Iona looks round at them. Waiting till there is a brief pause, he looks round once more and says:

“This week . . . er. . . my. . . er. . . son died!”

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“We shall all die, . . .” says the hunchback with a sigh, wiping his lips after coughing. “Come, drive on! drive on! My friends, I simply cannot stand crawling like this! When will he get us there?”

“Well, you give him a little encouragement . . . one in the neck!”

“Do you hear, you old plague? I’ll make you smart. If one stands on ceremony with fellows like you one may as well walk. Do you hear, you old dragon? Or don’t you care a hang what we say? ”

And Iona hears rather than feels a slap on the back of his neck.

“He-he! . . . ” he laughs. “Merry gentlemen . . . . God give you health!”

“Cabman, are you married?” asks one of the tall ones.

“I? He he! Me-er-ry gentlemen. The only wife for me now is the damp earth. . . . He-ho-ho!. . . .The grave that is! . . . Here my son’s dead and I am alive. . . . It’s a strange thing, death has come in at the wrong door. . . . Instead of coming for me it went for my son. . . .”

And Iona turns round to tell them how his son died, but at that point the hunchback gives a faint sigh and announces that, thank God! they have arrived at last. After taking his twenty kopecks, Iona gazes for a long while after the revelers, who disappear into a dark entry. Again he is alone and again there is silence for him. . . . The misery which has been for a brief space eased comes back again and tears his heart more cruelly than ever. With a look of anxiety and suffering Iona’s eyes stray restlessly among the crowds moving to and fro on both sides of the street: can he not find among those thousands someone who will listen to him? But the crowds flit by heedless of him and his misery. . . . His misery is immense, beyond all bounds. If Iona’s heart were to burst and his misery to flow out, it would flood the whole world, it seems, but yet it is not seen. It has found a hiding-place in such an insignificant shell that one would not have found it with a candle by daylight. . . .

Iona sees a house-porter with a parcel and makes up his mind to address him.

“What time will it be, friend?” he asks.

“Going on for ten. . . . Why have you stopped here? Drive on!”

Iona drives a few paces away, bends himself double, and gives himself up to his misery. He feels it is no good to appeal to people. But before five minutes have passed he draws himself up, shakes his head as though he feels a sharp pain, and tugs at the reins. . . . He can bear it no longer.

(Video) The Lament by Anton Chekhov

“Back to the yard!” he thinks. “To the yard!”

And his little mare, as though she knew his thoughts, falls to trotting. An hour and a half later Iona is sitting by a big dirty stove. On the stove, on the floor, and on the benches are people snoring. The air is full of smells and stuffiness. Iona looks at the sleeping figures, scratches himself, and regrets that he has come home so early. . . .

“I have not earned enough to pay for the oats, even,” he thinks. “That’s why I am so miserable. A man who knows how to do his work, . . . who has had enough to eat, and whose horse has had enough to eat, is always at ease. . . .”

In one of the corners a young cabman gets up, clears his throat sleepily, and makes for the water-bucket.

“Want a drink?” Iona asks him.

“Seems so.”

“May it do you good. . . . But my son is dead, mate. . . . Do you hear? This week in the hospital. . . . It’s a queer business. . . .”

Iona looks to see the effect produced by his words, but he sees nothing. The young man has covered his head over and is already asleep. The old man sighs and scratches himself. . . . Just as the young man had been thirsty for water, he thirsts for speech. His son will soon have been dead a week, and he has not really talked to anybody yet . . . . He wants to talk of it properly, with deliberation. . . . He wants to tell how his son was taken ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died. . . . He wants to describe the funeral, and how he went to the hospital to get his son’s clothes. He still has his daughter Anisya in the country. . . . And he wants to talk about her too. . . . Yes, he has plenty to talk about now. His listener ought to sigh and exclaim and lament. . . . It would be even better to talk to women. Though they are silly creatures, they blubber at the first word.

“Let’s go out and have a look at the mare,” Iona thinks. “There is always time for sleep. . . . You’ll have sleep enough, no fear. . . .”

He puts on his coat and goes into the stables where his mare is standing. He thinks about oats, about hay, about the weather. . . . He cannot think about his son when he is alone. . . . To talk about him with someone is possible, but to think of him and picture him is insufferable anguish. . . .

“Are you munching?” Iona asks his mare, seeing her shining eyes. “There, munch away, munch away. . . . Since we have not earned enough for oats, we will eat hay. . . . Yes, . . . I have grown too old to drive. . . . My son ought to be driving, not I. . . . He was a real cabman. . . . He ought to have lived. . . .”

Iona is silent for a while, and then he goes on:

(Video) 'Misery' by Anton Chekhov | Free Essay Sample

“That’s how it is, old girl. . . . Kuzma Ionitch is gone. . . . He said good-by to me. . . . He went and died for no reason. . . . Now, suppose you had a little colt, and you were own mother to that little colt. . . . And all at once that same little colt went and died. . . . You’d be sorry, wouldn’t you? . . .”

The little mare munches, listens, and breathes on her master’s hands. Iona is carried away and tells her all about it.

FAQs

What is Misery by Anton Chekhov about? ›

Anton Chekhov's story 'Misery' deals with human insensitivity to the pain of others. It conveys the anguish of an elderly person who has recently been bereaved due to the death of his son, as well as his urge to express his grief and relieve himself. The world is indifferent and insensitive to his plight.

What is the theme of the lament? ›

Answer: The theme of "Lament" is that grief can be experienced in a frozen way and buried under trivia and cliches, such as that "life goes on" after a person dies. The speaker has apparently just lost her husband. Her tone is almost emotionless, as if she is shell-shocked by the news.

What is the main conflict in the story Misery? ›

The main conflict in Chekhov's "Misery" is Man versus Society. Iona Potapov is miserable after the death of his son, and what he wants to do is talk to someone about it. But as a cab driver, he must focus on his job. He has a few passengers—a soldier and, later, three youths—but none of them will listen.

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 main theme of Misery? ›

The theme of “Misery” by Anton Chekhov of misery, as the title suggests it, and loneliness. According to Heri Nurdiyanto, the story is about “how one man's grief is ignored by the public, just when he needs someone's attention the most” (Nurdiyanto).

What is the irony of 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 kind of poem is a lament? ›

lament, a nonnarrative poem expressing deep grief or sorrow over a personal loss. The form developed as part of the oral tradition along with heroic poetry and exists in most languages.

Is lament an emotion? ›

Also, a lament is an expression of grief. So if you keep saying how sorry you are about something, someone could say, "Enough of your laments!" There's also an old literary form called "a lament," which expresses feelings of loss in a long dramatic poem.

What is the climax of Misery? ›

The climax of Misery sees Paul finally gain the upper hand with Annie, allowing him to kill her once and for all. In the next scene, we pick up with him 18 months later out to lunch with his agent Marcia (Lauren Bacall).

Who is lona Potapov? ›

Iona Potapov is an older man. As the story begins, he is described as 'all white like a ghost. ' He sits alone is his horse-driven sleigh waiting for a fare. Snow is falling, and he lets it cover him while he sits 'bent as double as the living body can be bent.

How do we know of Iona's Misery or grief? ›

''Misery'' by Anton Chekhov

'' Iona is suffering from intense grief after the sudden death of his son. He's compelled to connect with another person with whom he can share his story, but everyone he meets is too self-centered or cruel to listen.

Who dies in the short story The lament? ›

Answer: There is only one important event in the story, which is Iona's mission to share his grief and suffering with someone to ease his pain. The narrative is woven around this one objective of the narration. Iona is an old cab driver, who had low income and had recently lost his son to death.

When was the story the lament written? ›

It was composed in 1570 after the execution of Gregor MacGregor by the Campbells. The grief-stricken widow, Marion Campbell, describes what happened as she sings to her child. "Cumhadh na Cloinne" ("Lament for the Children") is a pìobaireachd composed by Padruig Mór MacCrimmon in the early 1650s.

What is the cause of the cab driver's Misery grief? ›

He already had lost his wife and daughter and his son was his only companion. After this loss he is broken and tries to confide in other people, his passengers but, no one wants to listen to him talk about his grief.

Why is Misery so good? ›

It works as a simple stage-play on celluloid involving an ordinary guy who must outwit an unstable fan. It even works as one of the most twisted love stories ever told. Misery is a treasure of a movie that only gets better with age.

Who is Lonas first passenger? ›

The first passenger was a polite army man who listened to him politely as he shared his tragedy. The army man interrupts Iona and points out his reckless driving. Grief-stricken and discontent, Iona receives three intoxicated young men as his passenger soon after.

Why does Lona tell the story of his son's death to the horse? ›

Iona tells the story of his son's death to the horse because no one else will listen to him.

When was Chekhov's Misery written? ›

"Misery" (Russian: Тоска, romanized: Toska) is an 1886 short story by Anton Chekhov.

Who is Iona's second fare? ›

The first is just one man, while the second consists of three men. The first fare is a military officer. As soon as Iona starts driving, the officer begins to complain. He observes that Iona is driving erratically, weaving all over the street.

What was the Colour of the horse the lament? ›

His little horse is also quite white, and remains motionless; its immobility, its angularity and its straight wooden-looking legs, even close by, give it the appearance of a gingerbread horse worth a kopek.

Which animal does loan have in the story the lament? ›

Answer: The story is a satire on how disengaged humans are that one has to find a true companion in an animal. Iona from the beginning of the story is portrayed with his horse. In the beginning, while Iona is struck with his loss and is melancholic, he and his horse stood unmoved.

What makes the poet lament? ›

Answer. Answer: The poet laments the conditions of a man that has man keeps fighting with man and has no peace and stays busy in his monotaneus shedule and does not use his leisure time for gazing at nature..

What is the structure of the poem lament? ›

The poem features seven stanzas of three lines each, and has an unrhymed structure. The first stanza describes the plight of a pregnant turtle, and the second stanza explains a cormorant doused in oil. However, the next five stanzas describe elements more rapidly, with one line dedicated to each.

What is an example of lament? ›

An example of a lament is The Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament of the Bible. Lament is defined as to feel loss, sorrow or regret, often expressed in a physical way. An example of lament is to feel sad and cry at a funeral. An example of lament is to wish you would have done something different with your life.

What is the value of lament? ›

The importance of lament: When we are dealing with pain and suffering, we have the opportunity to cry out to our Father in heaven and know that we will be heard and that our pain will not last always. The relationship between lament and faith: Lament allows us to petition to God.

What is the synonym for lament? ›

Some common synonyms of lament are bemoan, bewail, and deplore. While all these words mean "to express grief or sorrow for something," lament implies a profound or demonstrative expression of sorrow.

What's the definition for lament? ›

transitive verb. 1 : to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively : mourn … must regret the imprudence, lament the result …— Jane Austen. 2 : to regret strongly He lamented his decision not to go to college.

What is the setting of Misery? ›

Annie Wilkes lives in a farmhouse in Sidewinder, Colorado. The location is rural and for most of the story it is winter with few references to the outside of the house.

Is Misery based on a true story? ›

Although the events of "Misery" aren't ripped from any real-life ordeal, the book itself (which King listed as one of his favorites during an interview on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert") does appear to have been spawned from the writer's personal demons.

Does the author escape in Misery? ›

Surprisingly, he survives and as he crawls towards his car, Annie runs him over with her riding lawnmower, later telling Paul that he killed the trooper by shouting out.

How do we know of Iona's Misery or grief? ›

''Misery'' by Anton Chekhov

'' Iona is suffering from intense grief after the sudden death of his son. He's compelled to connect with another person with whom he can share his story, but everyone he meets is too self-centered or cruel to listen.

Why is it important for Iona to tell about his son's death? ›

Iona tells the story of his son's death to the horse because no one else will listen to him.

What is the cause of the cabdrivers Misery? ›

He already had lost his wife and daughter and his son was his only companion. After this loss he is broken and tries to confide in other people, his passengers but, no one wants to listen to him talk about his grief.

What was Iona's grief about? ›

Iona the main character in the story is a poor cab driver, who has lost his son and is mourning his death. As a human being he wants to share his grief to his fellow human beings but non of them pay any attention to it. In the story he first tried to talk to the officer who hired him to go to Viborg Way.

Who is Iona's second fare? ›

The first is just one man, while the second consists of three men. The first fare is a military officer. As soon as Iona starts driving, the officer begins to complain. He observes that Iona is driving erratically, weaving all over the street.

Why is Iona sad in the story? ›

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.

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