Find today’s 12,412 word short story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/181.html
This is a story about the deadly consequences of religious fanaticism. Although Matvey had been getting on his cousins’ nerves by his criticism of their unique style of worship, it is his act of putting oil into a bowl of potatoes during a fast that became the impetus for murder. It is interesting that Chekhov built up a family lineage full of of idiosyncratic worshippers. “The Terehovs had always been distinguished by their piety… they were given to dreams and to doubts and to changes of faith and almost each generation had a peculiar faith of its own.” Matvey’s story about accidentally becoming revered as a saint and then a subsequently turning into a sex cult leader is fascinating. It is a long, expository side-story that informs the rest of Matvey’s actions and isn’t halting as some of Chekhov’s other do. Matvey’s journey has led him to live by Osip Varlamitch’s mantra of “All that is above the ordinary is of the devil.” Sort of a chilling line in support of mass conformity, but then again, Jesus did look at his followers as sheep. The murder scene in chapter five is more brutal than what Chekhov usually writes. Although the wording is a little confusing as it is hard to tell when the weapon of a jar is exchanged for an iron. I also liked the nickname, “The Godlies,” for the uber pieous family. The end is spent with the cousin, Yakov, and how he finally figures out spiritual peace, but much too late.