Next up is the flash short, At The Barber’s. http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/003.html
This short isn’t a classic by any means, but I think offers a glimpse into a couple character types that Chekhov will use in the future. The first is an honest, sensitive working man who barely ekes out a living and will never catch a break in his life. The other is an arrogant and obtuse klutz who only wants and takes, oblivious (or uncaring) about the hurt he dispenses. What stood out about the story was the restraint. A man with sharp scissors learns that the man in his chair who is getting a free haircut has betrothed his lover to another man and he does no harm. I’m sure the reading audience would want at least the slight cut on the godfather’s head or cheek, but it doesn’t happen. There is a punchline at the end, but not justice. (As will be the case for many stories.)
Also this tale reminded me of a story by Chris F. Holmes, “A Dying Art.” There is a character named Anton Russo who walks into a barbershop, but the author says his tale has nothing to do with Anton Chekhov or the story.
A very short story indeed. The most endearing quality of this tale in my mind is the description of the barber shop. I especially like Chekhov’s description of the warped mirror. Perhaps Chekhov was making a deeper point when describing the warped nature of its reflection and how the godfather apparently liked what he saw. Shallow and arrogant, the godfather is oblivious to the suffering his words have caused in the main character. I too was most impressed with the restraint the barber showed and longed for a quick snip to exert some sort of justice for his years of hospitality. Alas, in tragic Chekhov style, we are deprived of such justice and left to ponder the fate of our forlorn hero.