Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chekhov Short Stories - twelfth installment

About Love (1898)
Now here is a curious thing: the view-point of this story changes at the end. The three main characters are the teacher, the vet and the miller again, but at the start it is clear (to me, anyway) that the narrator is the vet. He mentions the teacher and the miller and then refers to everyone as 'we'. There then follows a story told by the mill-owner of his love of a married woman - absorbingly and poignantly told - which ends with her departure on a train. The tale then talks about the vet by name in the third person, which brings it in line with the two stories before.

A Doctor's Visit (1898).
A very interesting and appealing tale. A doctor is asked to attend the daughter of a factory owner. The girl is aged twenty and has always perceived to be frail. The doctor (or rather his assistant who attends in the doctor's place) sees the girl as ugly at first but then sees her as frail, charming and intelligent after she has broken down into tears and tells her of her feelings. There are magnificent and interesting descriptions of the factory and the girl's relationship with it. Despite being an heiress, she is unhappy and lonely and needs to talk to someone. The doctor's assistant is understanding. The story ends with the doctor's assistant appreciating the new morning and there is a strong sense of optimism.

The Darling (1899).
This is about a woman who needs to love; and she loves serially and passionately: first her father, then a teacher at school, then the theatre manager who happens to live close, then after he dies, a timber merchant, then after being widowed again takes to a veterinary surgeon who is estranged from his faithless wife and their son. Each time the woman ('the darling') takes on the interests of her husband or lover; in the times between she is empty. When the vet leaves with his regiment she is bereft and becomes unattractive and old.

Eventually though the vet returns with his wife and son. The 'darling' then takes to the son, following him around although he dislikes her and she in return loves him passionately: 'never had her soul surrendered to any feeling so spontaneously, so disinterestedly, and so joyously...' It is a sad ending because although the'darling' loves it is completely unrequited by the child.

Style Tip (from Strunk and White)
A linking verb agrees with the number of its subject
e.g. The strength of a Chekhov story is in its characterisations and strong subtle messages.

New Word
descry = to catch sight of
e.g. it is seldom possible to descry a complicated plot.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A linking verb agrees . . . " Well, if you must do English by numbers remember that verb agreement is a matter of grammar and not style. The linking verb is not the issue here anyway. "The strength" is a singular noun, so following it with a whole gang of plurals - "characterisations" as well as "messages" - is a bit naff, stylistically. Its strengths ARE, maybe, or, its stength IS characterisation, but using a singular subject with a bunch of plural complements stuffs up the verb and feeds the vulture in all of us pedants.

Sun Oct 05, 03:57:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Actually, I missed out the 'in'. Thank you so very much for taking the time to write with your views, Anonymous. I shall endeavour to be less naff in future.

Sun Oct 05, 04:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are yes, that little word makes all the difference. Thanks for responding.

Mon Oct 06, 02:55:00 pm  

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