#148 The Steppe (The Story of a Journey)

Today’s novella comes in at 39,155 words. http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/148.html

Travis review:

This review took longer to come out than others. Not only was I traveling over the weekend (and have 7 out of the last 8 this summer which has affected the consistency of daily reviews), but the length of this story is tremendous compared to the usual 1500-5000 words stories. (Kind of like the endless steppe.) In 12 point New Roman font, this story is 77 pages long in Word. But enough about the length. This novella is divided into eight parts, told from the point of view of an eight year old boy, Yegorushka. Sheltered and middle class, Yegor encounters a new, strange world of peasants and inn keepers as well as formidable terrain. In the first two sections, though, Chekhov introduces three other characters besides the boy (his uncle, a priest, and the driver) and no points of view are very dominant. It is only in the third section when the story becomes Yegor’s. He observes Moisey Moisevitch and his brother critically, finding insincerity and multiple flaws with the inn-keeper and his family. Throughout this tale, Chekhov gives more details to various characters that Yegor encounters than he usually does in shorter works. For the most part all of the characters seem to have flaws, especially the peasants: Panteley feet ache, Kiruha is mentally challenged, Emelyan no longer can sing, and Dymov although physically fit is sadistic. But in the third section, Chekhov seems cruel in Yegor’s observations of the Jewish innkeeper, his brother, and his wife. Almost 150 stories into Chekhov’s cannon and I can’t remember a kind description that he has given to any character of Jewish heritage. For writer with such acute sensitivities to mankind, this is sad. I hope to encounter a story that will change this impression. When Yegor joins the waggon train of wool drivers in the following section, I feel the story really settles in with strong personalities, random incidences on the road, weather, and Yegor recalling recent events, muddling them in his mind. Perhaps the moment liked the best was when the boy finally shouted at Dymov, unleashing a stream of  invective at the bully. I like that Chekhov created this character to cause conflict and impending troubles for Yegor. “You are the worst of the lot; I can’t bear you!… In the next world you will burn in hell!…  Don’t you dare insult Emelyan!….” That Yegor felt morally outraged to stand up against Dymov, even if he had no strength to back it up, shows the strength of character he has and the probable man he will become in the future. I also liked the stories that Panteley tells around the campfire about men with “long knives.” In a crime novel, this would have been a set up for Yegor’s uncle and the priest to be murdered with the suspects being Moisey, and I did fear for their safety as money was display early on. This novella definitely felt complete by the time Yegor makes it to his destination. If Chekhov had lived longer, I wonder if he would have written further novellas of Yegor growing into a young man. Unfortunately, we will never know.

Rating: 7



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