Find today’s 1845 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/062.html
Today’s story made me smile. Like yesterday’s “A Gentleman Friend,” we are watching a foolish, fun-loving person. But unlike the calculative and shallow Vanda, I like Ivan Alexyevitch, as his mistake seems honest and he has several friends (gentlemen, I assume) who willingly stand up for the man. Chekhov tells the story by slowly peeling away the layers of the “poker-like gentleman’s” situation. I believe his newly wedded wife will be in for a lifetime of similar mishaps, but if she has a sense of humor, Ivan will probably illicit more than a chuckle and head shaking from her. As Steve says below, the reveal at the end — that he was on the wrong train — is predictable. When he realizes his mistake, we see Ivan at his lowest as he “writhes though someone had trodden on his corns.” Yet, unlike many Chekhovian characters who are on the brink of losing everything with no recourse (Anyuta comes to mind), Ivan’s comrades collect money amongst themselves to buy him a ticket on the Petersburg express. It is as if this infectious “creator of his own happiness” will forever be given second chances in life where others often have none.
Although the ending was predictable, I loved the way Chekhov pivoted the story on the proclamation of the newly wed bridegroom, Ivan Alexyevitch, that nothing could extinguish his overtly happy state. An exuberant and inebriated Ivan stumbles upon what he believes to be the train that will take his new wife and him to Petersburg for their honeymoon. Searching compartments in vain, he discovers a long-lost friend in one of the cabins amid 4 other strangers. Convinced to wait until the next station to continue the search for his cabin, Ivan begins to entertain the passengers with his infectious happiness over the love for his new wife. With unintended clairvoyance, he admits up front that “there is so much turmoil in my head that I couldn’t tell where I am going myself. I go where fate take me.” Indeed this turns out to be more true than he intended. As he sets out to prove how “revoltingly happy” he is, he cannot help but lose sight of where he is going. Encouraged by the audience that his happiness has attracted, he begins to make an argument that “man is the creator of his own happiness” and dismisses the notion that happiness is dependent on chance. Here is where Chekhov relieves the anticipation the reader has suspected all along…Ivan is on the wrong train. You got to love the guy though. I agree with Travis that the true “Gentleman Friend” is one that despite laughing at their friend’s expense know when to contribute to the greater welfare of a man in need…especially in the case of a husband’s first honest mistake. The express train to Petersburg is his only salvation…