The Historic and Social Aspects in “Gooseberry” by Anton Chekhov

Introduction

Chekhov is a widely recognized master of the modern style of story writing. He skillfully created his short stories that became particularly influential among the writers of America and England. His first stories were based on the popular fiction, which included superficial vivid characteristics and swift development of events. However, changing of the personal views induced Chekhov to concentrate more on the moral issues. The majority of author’s convictions were influenced by the thoughts of Leo Tolstoy that emphasized the ideas of alleviation of the plight of others, non-resistance to evil, and antinaturalism. The paper is based on the analysis of the historic grounds and social aspects, which inspired Chekhov to write “Gooseberry,” and identifies the number of textual evidence that reflect the social convictions of the author.

 

The Historic Grounds of the Story Writing

Chekhov wrote the story “Gooseberry” as a part of the trilogy that tells about the men who live in the shell. Every hero of the stories – Belikov, Nikolay Nilkolaevich Chimsha-Gimalayskiy, and Alehin – has the personal shells, which they use as a shelter for hiding from the surrounding world. Thus, one of the most crucial grounds for writing “Gooseberry” was the author’s personal reject and misunderstanding of people who did not notice anything trying to reach their aim. The themes that represent Chekhov’s views in the short story include social injustice and quest for fulfilment. These topics are influenced by the specific historical atmosphere connected with the increased desire of people to become the senior officials and demonstrate their power and profits to other individuals. “Gooseberry” deals with the hypocrisy of landowners who ignore the sufferings of those less fortunate. The crucial inspiration for the writer was the tale of Leo Tolstoy, which can be also regarded as a historic aspect that induced Chekhov to write the story. Leo Tolstoy told about the official from St. Petersburg who saved money with the aim to sew the specific uniform with the gold embroidery. The uniform was ready, but there were no appropriate events that required wearing of such luxury clothes. Consequently, the uniform was hidden, which caused the dimming of gold. In the half of a year, the official died not putting it on. Chekhov used the tale for writing his own story but he described the hero who dreamed about the beautiful estate with bushes of gooseberry.

The Social Motives

The social motives of story writing were connected with the personal life of the writer. Chekhov was born in the poor family. The family went bankrupt in 1876, and his father had to move to Moscow to escape from the credits. After the graduation of Moscow University in 1844, Chekhov started his medical practice and simultaneously began to write the sketches to support his family. He knew how it was hard to earn money but he never stopped to enjoy the life. He sincerely worried about poor and ill people, whom rich gentlemen never noticed because of the constant focus on the accumulation of money. The society that surrounded Chekhov consisted of simple workers who needed to take much effort to earn money but they never stopped working. However, there were also people who thought only about enrichment and gaining of more possessions. Such inequality was the crucial motive that induced Chekhov to write the story and has challenged the society who does not see beauty of the world and hides real emotions under the mask.

Textual Evidence of Social Convictions of Chekhov

According to Aristotle, happiness is a perfect practice and realization of virtue, the true core of which cannot be found by all people. The majority of people reach happiness through the suffering. Chekhov condemned people who saw the aim of their lives only in money and prosperity, which is reflected in the numerous scenes. For example, Chekhov’s views represented in Ivan’s moralistic tale are combined with the aesthetic and luxury appeal of the surrounding through the dialectical opposition between the human desire for beauty, personal happiness, comfort, and social consciousness. The author laughs at the materialism of the heroes that is highlighted in the talk concerning the number of land that the man needs. Tolstoy, whose ideas were strongly followed by Chekhov, said in his story that a person truly needed only six feet of earth in which the individual would be buried. Ivan Ivanich counters that “it is a corpse, and not man, which needs these six feet. . . . It is not six feet of earth, not a country-estate, that man needs, but the whole globe, the whole of nature, room to display his qualities and the individual characteristics of his soul". Such words imply censure on brother’s materialism. Chekhov strongly expresses his doubts concerning the ability to buy happiness. Ivan Ivanich says that his brother is a simple clerk driven by the desire to save good money and buy the estate. However, such aim makes his life miserable. He looks like a beggar, married to the ugly wife, and has accumulated all his money in the bank. After the death of his wife, Nikolay starts to look for the estate but has no positive recollections about his personal life, which is like a transitional phase that leaves no emotions.

The other crucial moment that explicitly represents the poet social convictions is the distortion of the reality by rich people who see only one aim of accumulating more money and showing their wealth. For instance, when the cook serves two brothers proposing the gooseberries from the garden, Nikolay declares that they are delicious, but Ivan finds them “hard and sour”. Nikolay has craved to grow the gooseberries, which has been his aim for a long time; that is why, they taste for the hero like fruits. Thus, his desire to have the estate with the gooseberries was just like a mist that dimmed his mind, and he did not see anything else that surrounded him. Ivan makes the conclusion that Nikolay has wasted his life in his own specific happiness. He ends his story with the anecdote about the laments for the loss of his own youth and tells Alekhin to avoid wasting his time and begin to “do good things”. Nevertheless, Burkin and Alekhin find the story boring because it is more interesting for them to talk about “lovely woman” and “elegant people”.

Conclusion

The analysis of “Gooseberry” has proved that the main reasons for the story writing were historical and social aspects. Such themes were reflected in the surrounding environment of the poet and the story of his ideologist Leo Tolstoy that became the crucial inspiration for the author. Chekhov craved to show that people had to appreciate their lives and enjoy it but not waste for saving money. The social conviction of the author is completely represented in the words and actions of Ivan Ivanich and proves that wealthy people are blind to reality because of assurance that they are isolated from the misfortune. However, life can be disappointing any moment and it is not logical to spend it for one dream. The author wanted to open the eyes of people and prove that there is no guarantees that the person will be alive when the dream comes true and it is more important to concentrate on the quality of life but not prosperity.

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