#125 From the Diary of a Violent-Tempered Man

Find today’s 3897 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/125.html

A lot of today’s story reminds me of Notes From the Underground. I wonder if Chekhov is intentionally spoofing the classic. The character Nicolas has the same intensity and serious academic bend as Dostoyevsky’s unnamed character. At least that is what Nicolas tells us in his first person narrative that he writes in his diary, as we learn later, minutes from his wedding. There are hilarious points throughout, starting with his dissertation on the “Past and Future of the Dog Licence.”  He begins writing a historical survey the of the dog licence. “We may deduce from some allusions in Herodotus and Xenophon that the origin of the tax on dogs goes back to…” It seems like Chekhov is parodying Notes. Especially when Nicolas keeps claiming to be a hostile angry young man. Like he is Bruce Banner warning those around him to beware that The Hulk lurks underneath. At so many points I expected Nicolas to lash out, but he usually fell back on a line about decorum. “My soul is boiling with rage, and I feel that in another moment I may not be able to answer for myself, that there may be an explosion, but gentlemanly feeling and the fear of committing a breach of good manners compels me to obey the ladies. And I obey them.” That he only shouts at a maid once, saying he didn’t want supper, leaves me to believe he makes more of his violence than he actually has. Even in his notes, he rereads what he wrote and amends what he has written. Absurdity and unreliability start to creep in when Nicolas says he can’t remember a woman’s name — who is the central character. “Her name, I believe, is Nadenka or Varenka, it really does not matter which.” As the story progress it revealed that her name is Mashenka who is soon to be his wife. Although the name Varenka keeps coming back, like in the end of the story.  While the story is longer than it needed to be, it was enjoyable and funny in several places including a surprise solar eclipse.

Rating: 7

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