#159 Peasant Wives

Find today’s 5840 word story here:  http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/159.html

Travis Review: 

I’m not sure if this would be considered an example of history repeating itself or how the repetitive nature of circumstance causes similar reactions. Chekhov sets up the tale with two powerful men talking. Dyudya is a local peasant who has become prosperous and Matvey Savitch is merchant traveling through town. It is interesting that Dyudya sees Matvey as “businesslike man, serious and aware of his own value.” Which, as the story unfolds, is to say arrogant and self-centered. Matvey tells the story of himself and his neighbor’s wife cuckolding a soldier stationed in Poland. He manages to deflect the blame of his actions, “…the Evil One, the enemy of all mankind, confounded me…” while simultaneously blaming the woman with whom he is having the affair, “From womankind comes much evil into the world and every kind of abomination. Not we sinners only; even the saints themselves have been led astray by them.” The true blameless victims of the story are Vasya, the husband, and Kuzka, the orphan. The tale told could have been enough for the story, but Chekhov took it further from a story of infidelity in the past to one in the present. And I applaud the move. Varava and Mashenka share so much in common from a poor upbringing, being married against their will, having affairs unbeknownst to their husbands and having the capacity for murder. If I had any sympathy for Varava, being married to a drunken hunchbank, I lost it with her attitude. The next day, Chekhov makes us feel sorry both the young boy who Matvey “took him for [his]soul’s salvation” and Sofya, the forgot wife of a dismissive husband and laborer for Dyudya’s family, as they are verbal abused and ordered around. I’m not sure if Chekhov is saying the meek will be worked over by “serious” people who are “aware of their value,” but it does paint a bleak, realistic picture.

Rating: 9

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