#196 On Official Duty

Find today’s 6647 word story here:  http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/196.html

Travis review:

I found today’s story about officials traveling to investigate a suicide and the distractions that follow interesting from the standpoint of naming schemes. There are 3 L prominent names: Loshadin (the village constable), Lesnitsky (the dead insurance agent) and Lyzhin (the examining magistrate who the reader follows). Although the story starts with the examining magistrate and doctor getting lost in a snowstorm on the way to Symya, we learn the names of the dead man and the drunken constable first. It isn’t until 15 paragraphs in that we get the doctor’s (Startchenko) and the magistrate (Lyzhin). The story revolves mostly around Lyzhin and yet he is the last to be named. I don’t believe that Chekhov has waited that long for a story written in the third person to name his protagonist and I’m not sure why did it here. Another in interesting thing is the way the story shifted. I believed the story would be a psychological and eerie tale about Lyzhin spending the night in the Zelstvo with a dead man in the next room. But instead the story changes from the dreary setting to an upbeat one of happiness and warmth tinged with guilt from making witness wait an extra day with the body. One of the arrogant lines that the doctor says stood out to me. “And in the next room the doctor began talking of the rigorous climate and its influence on the character of the Russian, of the long winters which, by preventing movement from place to place, hinder the intellectual development of the people…” I don’t know if Chekhov is making the statement or the doctor is doing it on his own. It does call into question the ability of society to grow if it stays insular (The Peasants and The New Villa come to mind.) To follow up on this idea, Loshadin is always moving, going from place to place rambling nonsensically and drunk. He doesn’t impart wisdom, but annoys. Perhaps those who do travel in the “rigorous climate” are not the best ambassadors of lofty ideals.

Rating: 6

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