Chekhov's Short Stories Summary

Chekhov's Short Stories Summary

“A Dreary Story”

Professor Nikolai Stepanovich can see the death creeping every closer and is overcome with fear and regret. This emotional paralysis furthermore disallows him to connect with his daughter and stepdaughter at the time that all three need it the most.

“In the Ravine”

A father finally arranges for his eldest son to marry and chooses a poor, but innocent and gold young woman. His younger son had married first and his wife takes exception to the fact that that this new addition to the household will legally stand to inherit what seems to be an unexpected influx of wealth into the family. Her evil machinations results death and loss of goodness in the house and ultimately it turns out the new wealth was a scam all along.

“The Kiss”

A deceptively slight tale about how perception has the power to alter reality. An unassuming, inarticulate soldier finds himself alone in a dark room during a boisterous party when a woman suddenly rushes up and kisses him, only to scream when she realizes she has mistaken him for another man. The kiss inspires the solder’s imagination to explore the heights of his potential and he sets about on a course to explore that potential that is almost in direct opposition to the reality. When invited to second evening at the home where the kiss took place, he stands in the garden and allows the reality that all the magical properties in place that first fateful night are absent. He declines the invitation to join the party inside.

The Darling

Almost a story of eternal recurrence in which a young woman who cannot imagine how she would ever managed to live alone marries and is widowed by no one, but two different men whose defining characteristic is complaining about the weather. She falls in love with a third man, but when he returns to his, the young woman is happy to find employment and a full house by taking care of the couple’s son.

“The Lady with the Pet Dog”

A man becomes intrigued by the daily appearance of a woman walking her dog about whom nobody seems to know anything. He makes her acquaintance, discovers her husband is away while she rests in the resort town of Yalta and proceeds to have an affair. This is one of Chekhov’s most anthologized stories primarily because it breaks with tradition by remaining objective rather than offering a subjective judgment on the morality of the adulterous affair and because of its surprising ambiguous ending which suggests that the two have yet to face the most difficult times in their relationship.

“A Letter to a Learned Person”

A story that should be required in at least one high school English as a textbook example of what irony actually looks like. The letter to the learned person is from a pompous and condescending boor who in the attempt to ingratiate himself to a man who truly is literature and erudite, reveals through excessively poor writing just how pretentious he really is in his proclamations of intellectual superiority.

The Bet

The story of two men arguing over capital punishment which transforms into a wager between a wealth banker and a lawyer that the lawyer cannot spend the next fifteen years in voluntary self-confinement. Fifteen years later, the banker is no longer wealthy enough to pay off the bet, but the lawyer has come to realize he does not want the money anyway. The story gains its full power from what is not made clear and becomes another case of irony as the subject of capital punishment which stimulated the bet play no part in the narrative.

Misery”

No irony in the title, that’s for sure. This is a tale of the utter misery of loneliness as a cab driver wants only to share the grief of the recent death of his son with somebody else. This seemingly simple attempt to make human contact with others is thwarted at every turn and ends with the cabbie turning to his horse for the comfort denied by people.

“Kashtanka”

A little dog gets separated from its master one day and is adopted by a mysterious stranger whose home is filled with other animals he is training as a circus act. When the goose dies, Kashtanka—rechristened “Auntie”—is promoted to replace the bird. During the opening night performance of the circus, when the dog appears onstage, she hears her old master shouting her old name and they reunited with the entire experience of her separation coming to seem like a dream.

”A Work of Art”

A poor young patient gives a bronze statue in lieu of payment to a doctor. The nude statue is determined in appropriate for display by the woman so he gives it away to an acquaintance and the statue proceeds to be passed from one person to another until wins up back in the hands of the student who believe he has found the matching pair to the statue he originally gave to the doctor.

“The Night Before the Trial”

A man posing as a doctor write prescription for a woman and accepts payment from the husband as he is about to be put on trial for bigamy. When the trial starts, he realizes that the husband whom he duped into paying for the bogus prescription is none other than the prosecutor.

“Rothschild’s Fiddle”

A tale about a coffin-maker, his loveless marriage, and the extra money he makes playing his fiddle for a Jewish orchestra. Yakov notices that his wife suddenly seems to look happier shortly after learning the news that she dying. Before succumbing, she mentions the child they had fifty years earlier who died, but Yakov has no memory of ever having a baby. Just before his down death shortly afterward, Yakov—filled with regret over having taken his wife for granted and not treating her more kindly—finally remembers the baby. He also reconciles with another member of the orchestra—the flutist Rothschild whom he had inexplicably become abusive toward—after playing his fiddle one last time. Just before dying, Yakov informs the priest administering late rites his wish to will his fiddle to Rothschild.

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