Find today’s 4853 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/155.html.
In the “A Problem” Chekhov dealt with a spoiled aristocrat who felt entitled to exploit his uncles’ credit, but he knew he was bad or a criminal as he calls himself. In this story, we have a princess who believes she is a good person and cannot handle evidence that contradicts that. When reading a story like this, I can understand why revolutions happened. In this case Princess Vera Gavrilovna is sheltered and goes on whims of benevolence that feels like celebrity actor taking a photo with starving children between movie shoots. For the princess to have experiences and dole out charity to her peasants, vast inconveniences and hours wasted waiting for her happen. Whether she wants to teach children in a school or care for infants while the mothers work in the field, everybody is putout by her “kind” act. The examples that the doctor gives reminds my of the Potemkin village set up during Catherine the Great‘s visit through the Crimea. I was really impressed that the doctor, filled with rage, had the courage to finally stand up and reveal the truth of what the princess’s “fads” cause. Denial runs deep with people who face no real world consequences for their actions and this princess is no different. When confronted with the truth of the matter, the real consequences of her “benevolent” actions, she refuses to understand the content of the words. “She had never before been spoken to in such a tone. The doctor’s unpleasant, angry voice and his clumsy, faltering phrases made a harsh clattering noise in her ears and her head.” And so, she will remain immune to criticism. I loved the doctor’s line: “That is, I want to tell you that you look upon the mass of mankind from the Napoleonic standpoint as food for the cannon. But Napoleon had at least some idea; you have nothing except aversion.” It’s too bad he couldn’t stick with his convictions.