#166 Ward No. 6

Find today’s 21,694 word novella here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/166.html

Travis review:

This novella is told in 29 chapters. The first chapters is told in 2nd person almost like a voice guided tour. “Next you come into a big, spacious room which fills up the whole lodge except for the entry.” We quickly discover that Ward No. 6 is an insane asylum. In the past I’ve criticized Chekhov for being anti-semitic in his depiction of Jews, but Moiseika, although he has lost his mind, is kind, sharing his food, water and any money gets from begging. It isn’t until we get to chapter 5 that we meet Dr. Andrey Yefimitch after spending four chapters with Ivan Dmitritch, the man who will inadvertently cause the doctor’s downfall. While Andrey is a man full of compassion, what happens to him at the end, while tragic, could have been less traumatic had he managed his hospital better. It felt like Andrey Yefimitch had a limited opportunity for big changes at the hospital, much like a newly elected national leader voted in on the promise of making sweeping reforms. But he didn’t, merely trusting that his suggestions would happen, and it is too late when it comes back to bite him in the end. Like a lot of Chekhov’s later works, he’s delving into philosophy and commentary on the human condition for paragraphs at time. In this case Ivan gets to rant and elucidate with Andrey providing counterviews. There is much more to the story, but ultimately Andrey’s search for a partner to carry on intellectual debates brings him to his doom (which was easy to see coming) with the gossiping, small-minded inhabitants of the unnamed town that lies 250 miles away from a railroad.

Rating: 8

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