#132 The Pipe

Please find today’s 3343 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/132.html

Written in 1887, this story is concerned with the human devastation on the environment. Just before reading this story I read a news report about holes that have been appearing in Siberia and seem to be happening as an effect of global warming. Like yesterday, I found the title choice interesting. Instead of the title “The Pipe,” it seems like “The Prophecy of a Shepherd”, “Luka the Poor” or “End of the World Is Nigh” could have worked. The word pipe is used 14 times and is played before the shepherd is introduced and after he makes his planet ending predictions. It is also the device that causes Meliton, the lost bailiff, to unleash his life’s hardship on the shepherd. “…with no regularity, not blending into a tune, but to Meliton, brooding on the destruction of the world, there was a sound in it of something very depressing and revolting which he would much rather not have heard. The highest, shrillest notes, which quivered and broke, seemed to be weeping disconsolately, as though the pipe were sick and frightened, while the lowest notes for some reason reminded him of the mist, the dejected trees, the grey sky. Such music seemed in keeping with the weather, the old man and his sayings.” But Luka’s words seem more pressing and powerful than the shepherd’s pipe. Once he says “[t]he time has come for God’s world to perish,” he then backs it up with evidence of vanishing nature against Meliton’s arguments. There were some gem lines that can be related to earth’s situation today, including lines about cleverness that I found apropos to today’s overfishing and extreme oil/gas drilling. “What earthly good is cleverness to people on the brink of ruin? One can perish without cleverness. What’s the good of cleverness to a huntsman if there is no game? What I think is that God has given men brains and taken away their strength.” His lines about the forest caused me to cringe, thinking about the deforestation of the Amazon: “The forests, too… They cut them down, and they catch fire, and they wither away, and no new ones are growing. Whatever does grow up is cut down at once; one day it shoots up and the next it has been cut down — and so on without end till nothing’s left.” Of course the world has survived for another 136 years since this publication, yet the shepherd’s words still ring true. He was looking at his immediate environment which was probably over-hunted, fished, and timbered. Also the droughts could have been caused by the industrial revolution happening in London, Paris, New York and other places at the time. When Meliton loses his mind in sorrow, suffering from the doom and gloom predictions, he unleashes as a slew of personal disasters including a couple of unintentional funny lines: “My wife has become a Satan from poverty” and “If the world’s going to end I wish it would make haste about it. There’s no need to drag it out and make folks miserable for nothing…” The story was a bit long, but I enjoyed the parallels of the shepherd’s observations to what is happening now.

Rating: 6


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