Find today’s 1200 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/056.html
Grisha is two years and eight months of age. This is not the first time we’ve read a Chekhov story about a young child, but this by far the youngest so far. Everything we see is through Grisha’s eyes and his limited knowledge and vocabulary. It seems that the baby has only been in the house as “Hitherto Grisha has known only a rectangular world, where in one corner stands his bed, in the other nurse’s trunk…” The outdoors is described as a “new world.” It’s hard for me to believe that Grisha has never been outside, even with harsh Russian winters. Regardless, Chekhov paints a wonderful portrait of innocence, confusion and learning. My favorite section was when Grisha tries to understand what a father does since “Nurse and mamma are comprehensible: they dress Grisha, feed him, and put him to bed, but what papa exists for is unknown.” True to being a baby, the world revolves around Grisha. I enjoyed the story if just for the change of pace and extreme point of view Chekhov forced himself to write in.
In Grisha, we see the world through the eyes of a two year-old (almost 3). This is not the first time Chekhov has written from such a young perspective (c.f. Oysters and Children) but certainly the most difficult to pull-off. I took great pleasure in trying to determine what Grisha was actually witnessing. Whether it was the soldiers holding brooms (i.e. guns) or the big cats with their long tongues chasing each other (i.e. dogs), I was able to enjoy the limited world-view Grisha was experiencing. It is said that solid memories start to form around Grisha’s age so it is no surprise that his only recollection to-date was his nursery room and everything outside was a mystery. I enjoyed the descriptions of those around him (particularly the father) and the alternative explanations/motives for his behavior. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were also witnessing a transgression by the nurse that Grisha was permitted to witness only because he can’t talk. The fact that he received castor oil from his mom in the end reminds me of how difficult it is to understand the wants/needs of a child too young to communicate and yet how easy it is to think we know anyway. We taught both of our children limited sign language when they were very young (before they were able to speak) and it made a world of difference. Too bad for Grisha. He has nobody but his walls and his bed to share his story.