#118 The Examining Magistrate

Find today’s story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/118.html

An examining magistrate tells a true story about a woman, who in the prime of her health successfully predicts her own death. The structure unfolds like a mystery, as the majority of the story details the woman’s life starting from the point that she made her prediction: “Directly after my confinement. I shall bear my child and die.” The doctor who is listening to the story instantly determines it is suicide, and like Dr. Holmes to Sherlock Holmes, it is up to the examining magistrate to extract the reason why doctor came to this conclusion. He comes to the conclusion that the motive for suicide was revenge based on the infidelity of the husband. “That she forgave it quickly means that she had something bad in her mind. Young wives do not forgive quickly.”  Chekhov waits until the very end to reveal that the husband in question is the magistrate. That wasn’t as much of a surprise as the suicide theory is. “…if your theory is correct, why it’s. . . it was cruel, inhuman! She poisoned herself to punish some one else!” We only have a paragraph at the beginning to know the woman and she seems perfected in her husband’s memory.  “…healthy and clever, with no superstitions of any sort… clear, intelligent, honest eyes… graceful, elegant as that birch tree; she had wonderful hair… a person of the most infectious gaiety and carelessness and that intelligent, good sort of frivolity which is only found in good-natured, light-hearted people with brains.” Typically in mysteries you get to see different sides of the deceased from different characters, but in this case it is only the husband. I wonder at the end of the tale whether the examining magistrate will remember is dead wife in starker, harsher terms.   

Rating: 6

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