Find today’s 3712 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/109.html
A prosecutor of the circuit court comes home and finds it impossible to punish his young son for smoking his tobacco. This situation kind of reminds me of a surgeon who faints at the site of his children bleeding. A man who can do his job well, but cannot use those same skills at home. I have to admit that I was very happy that the child, Seryozha, did not get spanked or beaten in today’s story as his father and previous generations of children had encountered in the past for the same violation. The child’s innocent demeanor, even if it is a purposeful manipulation, won me over. Petrovitch, the prosecutor/father, is a gentle soul when it comes to his son, although I imagine he’s hard-nosed when it comes to opponents in the courtroom. Perhaps because he’s a widower, he feels more sympathetic and gentle to his son. He also has endless introspection as he analyzes himself and his actions as he tries to convey the dangers of tobacco to his son, but without resorting to violence.
“In old days people were simpler and thought less, and so settled problems boldly. But we think too much, we are eaten up by logic… The more developed a man is, the more he reflects and gives himself up to subtleties, the more undecided and scrupulous he becomes, and the more timidity he shows in taking action.”
Oh the perils of being an intellectual disciplinarian. He ends up telling his son a story an emperor who’s young son smoked and the tragedy that ensues. Chekhov does a wonderful job showing the father struggle making up the fantasy/morality tale. “[The] ending struck Yevgeny Petrovitch as absurd and naïve, but the whole story made an intense impression.” For most writers this would be the ending of the story. Mission accomplished, good night. But it is Petrovitch’s unyielding mind that makes today’s story poignant. He tricked his son into not smoking with an absurd story. “…the simpler and the less ingenious the plot, the stronger the impression it made on the child.” And this bothers the prosecutor. It’s not a victory, but a disappointment that his you son is like the masses. “Why must morality and truth never be offered in their crude form, but only with embellishments, sweetened and gilded like pills? It’s not normal…. It’s falsification… deception… tricks…” Chekhov is describing politics as we know it today. Simple, emotional slogans without much thought or deep reasoning. Chilling and universal. This is great story with sweetness and cutting edge. Well done Mr. Chekhov.