full titles · Agafya; The Black Monk; The Darling; The Grasshopper; Gooseberries; In the Ravine; Lady with the Dog; My Life (The Story of a Provincial); On Official Duty (On Official Business); The Night Before Easter (On Easter Eve); Steppe; and Ward No. six
author · Anton Chekhov
type of work · Fiction
genre · Short story
language · Russian (first translated into English in 1903); makes use of regional dialects and class accents
time and place written · Between 1886 and 1901 in Moscow and Yalta, Russia,
date of first publication · Stories published in various journals and periodicals from 1886 onward; first published in English in 1903
publisher · Literary journals such as the "New Times"
narrators · Mostly third-person narration, but Chekhov occasionally uses self-referential narration (e.g. in Agafya, The Night Before Easter, and Ward No. six)
climaxes · There are dramatic climaxes in Chekhov's stories, but the author tends to focus on the minor details and commonalities of people's lives. Mostly these climaxes involve moments when characters question their own morality, and they occur toward the middle of tales. For example, Olga in The Grasshopper and Dr. Ragin in Ward No. six both experience moments of revelation when they realize that they have deluded themselves about the way things really are. Sometimes climaxes occur at the end of stories—as in The Black Monk, where Kovrin hallucinates while hemorrhaging to death—but this happens less often than you would expect. For the most part, Chekhov plays on our expectations and leaves us guessing about how things will work out—obvious examples being The Lady with the Dog, The Darling, and Steppe.
protagonists · Chekhov's protagonists traverse the social spectrum of Russian society: they can be young or old, male or female, sane or insane, landowners or peasants. He uses a depressive physician in Ward No. six (Dr. Rabin); an artistic lunatic in The Black Monk (Kovrin); and a homesick nine year-old in Steppe (Yegorushka). To contrast, there is a social outcast in My Life (Misail); a miserly, conceited landowner in In the Ravine (Grigori Tsybukin); a man who protests against conceited landowners in Gooseberries (Ivan); and a dissatisfied young bureaucrat in On Official Duty (Lyzhin). Chekhov's female characters are just as diverse: he uses a foolish but affectionate widow in The Darling (Olga); a disaffected young wife in Lady with the Dog; and a social butterfly in The Grasshopper (Olga). There are also two anonymous narrators, both of whom seem to be members of the gentry, in Agafya and The Night Before Easter.
setting (time) · Late 19th century Imperial Russia
setting (place) · Set mostly in anonymous provincial towns and the Russian countryside
points of view · The author rarely adopts an authorial voice and prefers to switch between the perspectives of his characters, which can be flighty, serious, depressed, manic or innocently childlike
falling action · Often, the tales end anti-climactically or Chekhov leaves us to guess what will happen next. The Lady with the Dog and Steppe conclude suddenly, forcing readers to imagine what the likely outcome to events will be
tense · Immediate past, although the present tense is briefly used in the opening to Ward No. six
tone · Chekhov mixes pathos with humor to evoke an ironic yet sensitive authorial tone.
themes · Death and disease; disillusionment and failed ideals; the breakdown of aristocratic society
motifs · Communication and non-communication; the natural world
symbols · The night sky; food and drink
foreshadowing · There is some use of foreshadowing in Chekhov's tales, although readers are mostly given clues to guess at what might happen next. However, some examples include Dr. Ragin's conversations with Gromov in Ward No. six, which foreshadow the doctor's later incarceration in the asylum, and Kovrin's visions of "the black monk," which prefigure his final descent into lunacy.