Find today 1468 story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/074.html
The plot of today’s story is thin. A chauvinist husband, unable to go out hunting due to rainy weather, discovers for the first time, it seems, that his wife is not very smart. His indignation vacillates between outrage and tenderness as he would hate to have an independent thinking woman. (Lord forbid! since “learned women are usually tedious, that they are exacting, strict, and unyielding…“) This both a character study and commentary about the chauvinist who gets his pretty, brainless wife “who never pokes her nose into anything, does not understand so much, and never obtrudes her criticism….” Having his idealized wife, he must also deal with isolation until he can meet up with male companions to discuss “intellectuals subjects.” I feel no sympathy for Pavel.
Today’s story happens on a dull, rainy day where we find a dull character named Pavel. He is bored and resigns himself to watch his wife, Lidotchka, who wearing pink stockings and is writing a letter to her sister. Intrigued by the fact that she seems to be putting much effort into the letter, Pavel asks to read it. With a strained face he flips through the pages only to discover that it doesn’t meet his expectation of what good letter writing should entail. It’s not only the content that troubles him but the style. “There’s not a line that’s not a personal insult to grammar! No stops nor commas — and the spelling…” (c.f. “Love“). Hurling harsh insults about her intellect, Pavel soothes his own boredom by chauvinistically pointing out the perceived differences between men and women. He can hardly believe that despite her belonging to a “well-educated circle” she is such a “duffer at grammar.” Dinner approaches and Lidotchka explains through her tears that her weak intellect is the result of not going to high school and missing out on a chance at a University. Pavel shrugs and dismisses the idea of her being a “blue stocking” noting that he “would never had married a learned woman.” I love how Chekhov immediately follows this line with a very scholarly protest from Lidotchka:
“You are angry because I am not learned, and at the same time you hate learned women; you are annoyed because I have no ideas in my letter, and yet you yourself are opposed to my studying.”
Softening through indulgence in vodka, Pavel begins to feel sorry for his wife and a rush of “forgiveness” comes over him. He ponders the state of women making the fallacious statement that a “woman’s shallowness rests on her very vocation.” He can’t imagine what she would want with learning when she is perfectly happy loving her husband, bearing children, and making dinner (her vocation). He recalls how “tedious” learned women can be and rebels against the thought of ever entering into intellectual subjects with them again. The picture Pavel paints of the learned women could just as easily be replaced with any number of his male friends, but he will never realize this. He needs the “simple ones” in his life…he’ll settle for the pink stocking over blue… I felt that this story was a character study of the male-dominated world in which Chekhov wrote. I only wished he had made Lidotchka a bit more intellectual and challenging to Pavel but perhaps the point he was trying to make is like most women in Chekhov’s time, she was never given the chance.