Find today’s 4529 word short story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/193.html
It today’s story Korolyov, a doctor from Moscow, comes out to a small factory town to look at an ailing heiress. He rides into town with extreme prejudice and irritation. He sees the peasant class workers leading drunken, pointless lives. Korolyov hates the factory’s owner’s house, critiquing the “senseless and haphazard” luxury inside of it. And when he meets the invalid daughter, he sees her as “ugly like her mother, with the same little eyes and disproportionate breadth of the lower part of the face… she made upon Korolyov at the first minute the impression of a poor, destitute creature, sheltered and cared for here out of charity, and he could hardly believe that this was the heiress of the five huge buildings.” At this point I expected Korolyov to be a terrible human being who only wants to get paid for his diagnosis and leave immediately (especially after reading yesterday’s spiteful doctor in Ionitch). Instead Chekhov changes the doctor’s perspective the moment Liza sobs. “He saw a soft, suffering expression which was intelligent and touching: she seemed to him altogether graceful, feminine, and simple; and he longed to soothe her, not with drugs, not with advice, but with simple, kindly words.” This is an unusual about-face for Chekhov. Changes often happen at a slower pace for his characters. It is also interesting that in the 190+ stories that Chekhov has written (many with doctors), this is the first time a title like “A Doctor’s Visit” is used. It is like the doctor needed to visit a foreign place, far removed from Moscow, in order to break his prejudices down. His insomniac walk through the village later that night is like visit an apocalyptic hell. Seeing the general misery of both the rich and poor in this town, he believes only one person is benefitting from the town’s industry. “The real person, for whom everything is being done, is the devil.” With historical retrospect, the comforting speech that Korolyov gives Liza, “…Life will be good in fifty years’ time; it’s only a pity we shall not last out till then. It would be interesting to have a peep at it...” is sad because I know that Russia would become the Soviet Union, having suffered through WWII and was under a repressive Stalinist regime in the late forties. Overall, I like this story for the tone shifts and deep introspection.