Chekhov the Fox and Visions of Transcendent Humanity College
Anton Chekhov might look like a hedgehog when he returns time and again to the theme of universal humanity and its future path. But Chekhov as ‘the humanist writer’ does not really work towards a unified concept of mankind’s ultimate fate. Rather, the thinking men in his stories and plays present their own diverging and overlapping visions of human purpose. In a most Chekhovian manner, these perspectives are often frustrated or denied by the essential incommunicability of each man’s point of view. It then seems that Chekov’s narrative voice is more suited to the fox’s role, as it presents a polyphonic and individually refutable set of perspectives on a common theme. For some of Chekhov’s characters, the fate of man is fixed and predetermined, for others it is the uncertain product of generations’ toil. For some there is a religious drive to improving the current lot of humanity, and for others it is a biological or social imperative. Chekhov’s restless exploration of what humanity’s future means to different people proves that he would rather celebrate the philosophical diversity of his zeitgeist than constrain the intellectual developments of his age to a single framework.
Perhaps the most tellingly individualized view of...
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