Find today’s story 1765 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/102.html
Today’s story felt like a farcical stage play with characters loudly conducting normal business while having a serious conversation underneath. But in this case, Chekhov eschews the humor and goes with heavy drama. Polinka is described as “a thin, fair person.” I found it interesting that Chekhov chose have gender neutral and minimal descriptions of her, while describing her male friend/drapery salesman, Nikolay Timofeitch in greater detail. “a graceful dark young man, fashionably dressed, with frizzled hair and a big pin in his cravat…” Nikolay feels bitter at Polinka having chosen a student over him and he does his best to tear down her illusions of love. “...because you’re uneducated. He’ll call you ‘my dummy of a wife…” Polinka is reduced to tears, though the reason, whether it is that she is losing a friend or the impact of Nikolay’s words about the student is unclear. Like Steve mentions below, the ending is abrupt without a conclusion. While I enjoyed the dynamics of the story, it felt like Chekhov was writing this as challenge to himself to see if he could pull the dual conversations off.
Today we meet Polinka, “a thin fair little person”, who under the guise of shopping to support the dressmaking trade of her mother is actually trying to have an intimate conversation with her shopkeeper friend, Nikolay. The topic of conversation concerns her relationship with a student who Nikolay obviously thinks is using her for nefarious and less than honorable purposes. He declares that “these fine students don’t look on us as human beings…they only go to see shopkeepers and dressmakers to laugh at their ignorance and to drink.” I couldn’t help but think of the movie “Pretty in Pink” when reading this story. Today’s story has all the elements found in the cult classic movie from the 1980’s (filmed 100 years after Polinka was published). Polinka is the Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) character while Nikolay is “Duckie” trying to convince her to ignore “the student” (Blane McDonough). Beyond this rather pathetic comparison to modern day cinema, I didn’t get much out of this story. There was a tremendous amount of minutia about clothing that was completely foreign to me (e.g. what is a gimp?). The ending leaves us hanging as is common of Chekhov but he usually doesn’t stop mid-plot which left me ambivalent about how their conversation would ultimately conclude. I want to like this story and although I did appreciate the subtle art of writing two conversations in parallel, I hesitate to give this a high rating simply because it didn’t draw me or give me a reason to care about the outcome.