Difficult Times by Anton Chekhov

This story is fairly short and simple. It opens with farmer who has just gained some 300 roubles. His son asks for 15 roubles for his college studies, but the father only agrees to give him 10. THe son, exasperated by his miserliness, leaves in a huff, penniless, determined to never see his family again. But along the way, he runs into a fine lady and she smiles at him, and he smiles back and turns back home. He tells his father off. When he leaves in the morning, the father tells him the money is on table, but it is unclear whether it’s 10 roubles or 15 roubles that the father left for him.

Sometimes the solution to strife is just accepting the terms and parameters of it and moving on. Smile, chin up, and just make a way of it … it’s as simple as that.

The Wife by Anton Chekhov

The premise is fairly straightforward. The narrator is trying to get back into his wife’s graces by offering to help with her charity project, but reconciliation isn’t so simple because the wife has no desire to change their cold war detente state of affairs.

I’m still not sure what to think of this story. The narrator even though dull and self-important and egoistical, clearly loves his wife. And the wife herself … her childish, teary ways grates on me, so I wasn’t so enthusiastic about the narrator’s hope for marital bliss. But the narrator is trying to ameliorate issues, and the wife for whatever reason isn’t accommodating. By story’s end, the narrator concedes to a huge sacrifice, and even then the wife doesn’t budge.

What to say? Perhaps a lesson on the impossibility of communication between the sexes? Or the impossibility of marital bliss? Or that there are some kinds of rift that can never get fixed? Well, who knows …

Transgression by Anton Chekhov

This is another of those neat stories that show protagonists that fail to change.  A maid has just threatened the main character on their love child.  She threatens to leave the baby on his doorstep and cause a scandal. Some time later, the main character picks up a baby at his doorstep.  He deliberates on what to do with the baby.  Does he go to his wife and beg for her forgiveness?  Or does he abandon the baby on the doorstep of a merchant?  There is a tug of war between his reputation, his guilt, his morality.  In the end he decides to beg his wife and to persuade her to  accept the baby (the wife is barren). So you think whew! The MC has done the right thing.

However, as soon as the MC lays the baby at his wife’s feet.  He runs out of the house, deeply ashamed and frightened.  Outside he learns that baby was not actually his baby and the mother is crying helter-skelter to find it.  He returns to his wife and tell her that he was joking about his adultery.  And the story ends.

Neat isn’t it?  The MC didn’t change in the end.  His epiphany was a false epiphany, or  he would have come clean and done right by his maid and his love child.  Certainly something to think about some more.