Today’s story is 2359 words and can be found here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/103.html
This story could be summed up with the words “Money can’t buy happiness.” Frolov is a wealthy malcontent surrounded by sycophants. We watch him spend a night of debauchery in a restaurant with his lawyer as he insults the servers and destroys portions of the restaurant. He is an unhappy soul who has nobody to put him in check. Although portions of this story seem extreme, I’ve witnessed similar behavior in Los Angeles both with the unchecked people with money and power, and the sycophants who shamelessly suck up and endure tyranny for the lure of wealth. Frolov desperately wants to be put in check or at least called out on his bad behavior. “On my honour, if one of them would take offence I would make him a present of a thousand roubles.” But that will not happen as he pays a huge bill, Nine hundred and twenty-five roubles, forty kopecks for a night of bad behavior. This is one of the largest transactions that Chekhov has written about since A Living Chattel. Usually his characters squabble over a few rubles or kopecks. This is an example of how some people will endure all sorts of humiliation for money. In turn, the poison of their dishonesty has caused Frolov to hate his wife believing that “she had married me not from love, but for the sake of my money.” While this might be the source of his acting out in the restaurant, it is bigger than that. It is how he feels about the world. He knows that he is despicable. “I am a difficult, hateful man… A horrid, drunken, shameless life.” Although he claims that he would like his lawyer to call him a “vile, hateful man! [A] reptile!” (or anybody else too), I doubt the sincerity of it. He could easily make that happen. He has been staying within the safe boundaries of sycophants going to places where they know him. If he, like any of the self-loathing, powerful person really wants to be put in their place, they could always go to a countryside tavern where they are unknown and start a fight. But I doubt that will happen, at least for now. Frolov revels in his power, even though it makes him self-loathing.
Frolov is an extremely wealthy manufacturer eating a private dinner with his lawyer Almer and indulging in everything that money can buy. As they both get drunk their words flow more freely and we learn that Frolov is distrustful of his wife of only 2 years and has grown to hate her. His biggest concern is that she has married him for money when he married for love. If these were the only facts of the story, the reader might be compelled to feel sorry for Frolov. However, in his drunkenness we see how corrupt his morals have become as he treats everyone around him as if they exist for his amusement. Nobody is safe from his verbal abuse as he runs out of ways to waste money. “Why is it, old man, that people don’t invent some other pleasure besides drunkenness and debauchery?” I found his character disgusting and his juvenile antics reminiscent of a modern day celebrity so often stereotyped in the tabloid press. Although I didn’t find the story very interesting, I have to give Chekhov some credit for creating in me a sense of revulsion at the mere description of the main character.