Find the 7618 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/165.html
Chekhov starts this story with an immediate dilemma: aristocrat Pyotr Mihalitch’s younger sister, Zina, has run away to live with their neighbor Vlassitch, a married man. Pytor feels obligated to do something as his mother is bed-stricken with shame, yet conflict is not in his nature. Chekhov does a great job showing Pytor’s character in a few sentences. “He was only twenty-seven, but he was already stout. He dressed like an old man in loose, roomy clothes, and suffered from asthma. He already seemed to be developing the characteristics of an elderly country bachelor.” This is not a man you would want to lead you into battle or one that the reader expects to challenge his neighbor to a duel for the honor of his sister. Pytor, after days of procrastinating, finally saddles up and rides over to Vlassitch’s estate. While Chekhov was quick to set up the situation, it takes about 40% of the story to introduce Vlassitch. It was interesting that Chekhov created a limp, pliable character like Pytor and then contrasts him to an even weaker, more pathetic man. Perhaps Vlassitch might get credit for being a man of action compared to Pytor’s idleness, but his actions are self-destructive. What makes makes it worse is that Vlassitch feels like a martyr for the consequences he’s enduring. Zina isn’t introduced until 3/4 of the way through the story. At this point, Chekhov inserts a quick story-within-a-story about a murder (as well as a suicide) that happened within the house. When Pyotr rides back home thinking about his sister and wondering if he’s seen a ghost, I just had to shrug. Much like Pytor’s personal life, I wasn’t invested in this story very much.