Find today’s 2327 word story here:

Travis review:

This is ranks as one of Chekhov’s darkest stories. Perhaps the darkest of all as child abuse and sleep deprivation lead to horrible outcomes. Chekhov does a great job mixing Varka’s family situation that got her into such a horrible job through hallucinogenic dreams. I also see this story as an allegory about how abusive employers who show no mercy to their employees may lose what they value the most. I am rating this high because of the way Chekhov made us feel for Varka’s plight and even understand her actions.

Rating: 9



12 thoughts on “#147 Sleepy

  1. I think the setting of Sleepy and the hallucinations create a sinister mood, but still don’t prepare us for the plot twist at the end of the story- Varka killing the baby. I am not sure what is worse-the way Varka was treated or how she killed the baby? Is she responsible for the death of the baby, because she obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, so can we blame a 13 year old child that hasn’t slept and works days and nights?

    1. I agree Fatima. This story makes an awkward moral quandary. Varka’s actions are extreme and irreversible. Ultimately she is responsible as her job was too care for a helpless infant, but we are able to understand what and who drove her to this action. The most readers will have sympathy for a murder who was living in an awful situation.

  2. This tale Poses a very important question, who is to blame for the mental breakdown, the parents or Varka? Varka may not be respondible as she has been overworked, abused, and belittled, but at the same time this practice was common back in the times of the serfs, so Varka may have to attone for the mental instability that is specific to herself.

    1. I’m afraid this simply comes down to a matter of opinion and the answer would possibly be different for different cultures, as some still treat servants like this and accept it as normality. Whatever drove Varka to insanity, this story shows a great deal of the diversity of what different cultures perceive as “right and wrong”.

      1. I have no doubt that Varka will be treated harshly when she awakes (probably life in Siberia or worse). Her claims of abuse will fall on deaf ears as she’ll be known as a murderous little girl, but as readers we get sympathetic insight into what drove her to homicide.

    2. Good question, Nick. I tend to blame the parents, but they will suffer many times more with the death of their child. In the trial that will most likely occur next, I’m sure Varka’s defense of abuse won’t stand up against the murder charger. Readers mostly sympathize because we felt her abuse, but the judge and public in the village probably won’t. This is a lose-lose situation for both the family and Varka.

  3. As with “Oysters’ we have children’s distortions caused through extreme conditions..hunger, sleepiness..the shadows created by the green light and the men’s trousers…warped, large,haunting. This story reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Tell-Tale” and “Cask” narrator’s , but Chekhov’s characters are children which makes me sympathise. Varka’s laughter and delight at the conclusion are so chilling; we so rarely hear laughter in Chekhov.

    1. Great point about the laughter in Chekhov stories, Dianne. It seems like Chekhov has a few awkward laughs in uncomfortable social situation, but this a Poe like laughter of insanity. I wonder if the green light has something to do with envy (Do Russians use the the phrase “Green with envy?”) or is it more an erie atmospheric color. It comes from the lamp, but gives the dimension of sickness and insanity. In the Great Gatsby, there is a green light across the bay where the Buchanans live. Sort of beacon of want and it leads to bad things for Jay Gatsby.

  4. I like how Chekhov used the two different stories without directions in which is which, and it not being completely clear on if it is the hallucinations or the reality. Ia slo like how they are at the same time being told together, as if it would be in real life. I like how we can connect with her and empathise with her in a way, but then also feel guilty for thinking that our lives are similar to hers when ours are much better than what Varka had. Because of the hallucinations being told along with the reality I feel as though that perhaps it could be a possibility that we do not know if her day was reality or just another hallucination of a flashback of what she had been doing every other day, therefore even the death of the baby maybe being a hallucination. But this theory could also just be trying to find something good within the story, unwilling to admit the truth.
    Overall I feel as though this story is interesting as there are many different ways it could be interpreted as it could be seen as a metaphor for child abuse or even just showing what was normal. It could even just be a way of showing how maybe murder could be justified to an extent but nonetheless is horrible.

    1. It would be great if the murder was a hallucination, but I doubt it. The story also shows a cycle of violence, Varka’s employer’s abuse her which leads to abuse/murder of the baby. I would say the murder is understandable as Chekhov leads us through Varka’s harrowing life. Thanks Georgia!

  5. This story by Chekhov reminded my friend and I about the movie called ” The Machinist” where a guy who works at a factory has insomnia, and also gets weird hallucinations..

    1. I’ve seen “The Machinist.” That is a harsh movie about anguish, insomnia and hallucinations. Great parallel Zara.

Comments are closed.