Chekhov And Short Stories Essay, Research Paper
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was one of the greatest short story writers of all time. His stories evoked great emotion. It has been said that Chekhov s story is like a tortoise-all middle. The ending, never stated, is implicit in the frustration, nostalgia, loneliness, pretension, or despair of the story s one brief moment selected from a life to illuminate it in its entirety. In other words, even though, there is no ending, it is understood from the events in the story. You know on how the story is set in the end, and that brings to mind feelings such as frustration, nostalgia etc. One of Chekhov s important themes in his fiction writing is the intimacy between man and woman, their relationships and views towards each other as in the two written in 1899, Lady With The Dog and The Darling. Chekhov s short stories speak to the moral concerns of the upper classes of the period, concerns they only addressed with sadness and boredom.
Anton Chekhov was born on January 29, 1860, at Taganrog, Russia, a port city on the Sea of Azov. His grandfather was a serf but got money by trading and bought his and his family s freedom in 1841. Chekhov s parents were simple, half-educated, very religious people, with a strong family feeling. His father was was a merchant and very artistic with a passion for painting. In 1876 he escaped his creditors by declaring bankruptcy and leaving to Moscow. Anton was left alone tutoring and doing odd jobs for a living. Though his childhood seems depressed, there were happy moments in his youth when he would entertain his friends by mimicking the members of local society. This ability to see the comic in life, to grasp and imitate the essence of another, was probably the source of a writer whose tragic sense of life was always tempered by simultaneous awareness of the ridiculous. Chekhov saw life in a gloomy way, but at the same time toned the sadness down with his sense of humor and the way he saw life. He was always curious about people and that helped him write his six hundred pieces so detailed of personality. In 1879 Chekhov entered the Moscow University Medical School and by 1884 received his physician degree. In the same year his first book of short stories come out called Tales of Melpomene and by 1886 he was already recognized when he released his second book Motley Tales. In 1887, his third collection, In the Twilight , won the five hundred ruble Pushkin Prize yet Chekhov was restless and dispirited [for he failed to provide social and moral guidance] which was very important for artists of the time. After Gorky read Lady And the Dog he sarcastically made the following statement in his letter to Chekhov which would best illustrate why Chekhov felt dispirited and almost disappointed in his work:
Do you know what you are doing? You are killing realism. And you will kill it soon. Kill it for good. This form has outlived its time. It s a fact. After you no one can travel this road. No one can write so simply about such simple things as you do. After any of your insignificant stories everything seems crude, as though it were written not with a pen but with a log of wood. And the main things, everything seems not simple enough, nor true.
His story was as realistic as it could get. Two people met, fell in love and could not be together because of the ways and traditions of the time, but obviously that is not what Gorky meant. During the times the story was written Russian artists did not look for romanticized stories, they looked for social morals and that story and all his others lacked that. Gorky is being extremely critical of the story calling it insignificant and points out the simplicity of the essence by using the metaphor of pen to a log of wood, associated with backward peasant ways. This makes sense because Chekhov and Gorky were almost opposites, one being simple and romantic neo-realist and the other social and revolutionary.
Chekhov criticized his and Tolstoys writing whom he greatly admired in a letter to Suvorin:
The best of them are realists and paint life as it is, but because every line is steeped in the consciousness of a goal, you feel, besides life as it is, the life that ought to be, and that captivates you. And we? We! We paint life as it is but beyond that, nothing at all. Flog us and we can do no more! We have neither immediate nor remote aims and in our souls there is a great empty space. We do not believe in politics, we do not believe in revolution, we have no God .
In this quote he tried to express his restlessness because at that time critics did not appreciate him and this affected him. During the time art was to be relevant and speak to current events and not just simply good. Chekhov was convinced that his writing was not good enough as you can see in the quote above. He talks about how he wants to go beyond simply showing how life is and going deeper than that, by philosophizing and seeing the wrong, setting a moral. Then he goes on to write that he and Tolstoy do not understand such things as politics, revolution or a God to motivate them in such a insightful way as the others, and therefore they are not even capable of doing as others. This idea is especially pointed out when he claims that in [their] souls there is a great empty space. Chekhov is also saying how the realists do show life as it is but in such a way that makes you think beyond what you see which is the part that holds your interest.
The above quote clearly shows that the concerns that Chekhov and thus his characters have are only addressed with a low spirit and sadness. He channels those ideas in his short stories where his characters are not revolutionary either, but only motivated from within as mainly illustrated in the short story The Lady And the Dog.
The story is set in summer-resort and the main characters are there on vacation. Gurov is a man in his mid 40 s married with two children. He despises his wife and does not respect women in general. He frequently cheats on her and feels that women are of the lower caste. He is what we call a lady s man because he cannot stand the company of men and feels truly comfortable only among women. The opening sentence not only gives a full picture of a summer resort with its gossip, boredom, and people looking for adventure, it also unites the hero, Gurov with the resort crowd. He is considered empty inside, unhappy, bored, but wearing a mask on the outside, just like everyone else. Following that sentence, the second main character is introduced as a woman that stands out from all walking with her little white lapdog. This is when you can see changes in Gurov start to appear, and he sees things in a different light. He first views Anna as weak but something in her he likes. Usually he gets bored and annoyed with a woman quickly but this one captivates his attention. They start to have an affair but eventually realize they love each other but cannot be together. [And it seemed that a solution might be found, and then a new and magnificent life would start for them.] And they both realized that the end was still far, far away and that the hardest, the most complicated part was only just beginning
Thais Lindstrom A Conscise History Of Russian Litterature-From The Beginning to Chekhov (203)
D. S. Mirsky A History of Russian Literature (353)
Irina Kirk Anton Checkov (18)
Thais Lindstorm (204)
Reneand Nonna D. Welleck (editors) Chekhov (195)
Ralph E. Matlaw (editor) Anton Chekhov s Short Stories (235)