A Drama by Anton Chekhov, 1887
The magic trick:
Creating a darkly humorous conflict out of a simple scenario
I love these early stories from Chekhov. There is a feeling here that stories are everywhere. You can walk into any shop and find a story. You can imagine any two people in the world having a conversation about anything – and you have a story.
He draws humanity out of such simple, everyday scenarios.
And that’s quite a trick on Chekhov’s part.
“Very well; certainly . . . I will listen . . . I will give you half an hour.”
The lady uttered a shriek of joy, took off her hat and settling herself, began to read. At first she read a scene in which a footman and a house maid, tidying up a sumptuous drawing-room, talked at length about their young lady, Anna Sergyevna, who was building a school and a hospital in the village. When the footman had left the room, the maidservant pronounced a monologue to the effect that education is light and ignorance is darkness; then Mme. Murashkin brought the footman back into the drawing-room and set him uttering a long monologue concerning his master, the General, who disliked his daughter’s views, intended to marry her to a rich kammer junker, and held that the salvation of the people lay in unadulterated ignorance. Then, when the servants had left the stage, the young lady herself appeared and informed the audience that she had not slept all night, but had been thinking of Valentin Ivanovitch, who was the son of a poor teacher and assisted his sick father gratuitously. Valentin had studied all the sciences, but had no faith in friendship nor in love; he had no object in life and longed for death, and therefore she, the young lady, must save him.
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