Chekhov Short Stories - ninth installment
The mother wolf is hungry. She leaves her three cubs and goes in search of food. Eventually she comes across a stall containing sheep and lambs. She climbs the snowdrift to the thatched roof and falls in. However the owner of the sheep is now disturbed and gives chase and the she-wold grabs what she can. This turns out to be a very stupid puppy.
The puppy plays with the cubs, and the she-wolf is tempted to eat the puppy but it smells too doggy. The puppy eventually returns home because it is hungry and the she-wolf overtakes it and tries to catch a lamb again. The wolf is given away by the puppy. It barks joyfully at seeing the she-wolf and raises the alarm. The she-wolf escapes and the puppy is trained to enter houses through the door rather than the roof because it is so very stupid.
An amusing story with great descriptions. I kept wondering if it was allegorical, but couldn't really think how.
Anna on the Neck (1895)
Chekhov, I think, does not aim to tell a tale. He does not aim to make a point or round things off, or even give things an ending. I think his main interest is to depict what it means to be human. He does this by telling stories and slices of life that are not neatly tied up in the conventional way but end unsatisfactorily, much like life itself. There is no allegory and no deep meaning to the plot of the tale because that is not the purpose. The purpose comes from the detail and the story of Anna shows this very well.
Anna is poor and has married for money. Her mother and father are educated - her father a teacher and her mother was a governess before she married - and so Anna is educated too. But her mother has died and since that her father has become an alcoholic, almost lost his job and fallen into debt. In an attempt to remedy this she has succumbed to social pressure and married a local wealthy official who is 'elderly' (in his fifties). However she now finds herself poorer than before. The official intimidates her and she can't eat at mealtimes and then is given no money to buy food inbetween. She has to do what she is told and although he buys her jewelry it is not really hers - she cannot sell it and he makes her keep it in a drawer which he checks, and she is unable to help her alcoholic father and brothers.
Everything changes when Anna is invited to a ball. She is the belle and soon realises that she has power. This changes her husband's attitude to her and also the attitude of Anna to the world around her. It would, I suppose be a simple rags to riches story with a happy ending if it were not for this: her power makes her father and brothers feel more remote from her and feel they cannot even greet her in the street. This, I feel, takes the story to a higher (Chekhovian) level because it makes you think. Of course the reader is glad that Anna has found freedom and power, but is it worth this loss? It is a modern tale of celebrity.
Style tip (these are all from Strunk and White, BTW - my attempts at self-improvement)
A compound subject is formed when two or more nouns are joined together. It always requires a plural verb.
White Brow and Anna on the neck are two stories by Chekhov.
Solipsism: The theory that the self is all that can be known to exist. I often think this. So does Dr. Grump. I know, because we share the same head.