Chekhov Stories

Characters

Andrei Kovrin

Characters Andrei Kovrin

Kovrin, the consumptive protagonist of The Black Monk, overlooks his illness in his quest for genius. He possesses a lively, energetic spirit that borders on arrogance. But the truly bizarre side of Kovrin's character only appears when he begins to hallucinate. After envisioning a black monk who tells him that he is one of god's elect, the protagonist evolves from a successful but unfulfilled intellectual to appearing "radiant and inspired." However, everyone agrees that he has a "peculiar look." In this way, Chekhov blurs the distinction between giftedness and raving lunacy. Kovrin believes that he is not just a mastermind, but a man of genius whom god has chosen to aid humanity. We see that, after undergoing psychiatric treatment that results in his becoming embittered and malicious, Kovrin only wants to reclaim the ecstasy he felt as a lunatic. Chekhov thus plays with his readers' reactions to mental illness and shows how Kovrin's psychosis has both positive and negative effects. But these effects become increasingly negative as time passes. The author shows how, as Kovrin descends into madness for the second time, the order of the world breaks down: Tania and the protagonist separate, Yegor dies, and the orchard is ruined. Kovrin himself dies in rapture, convinced of his own genius. Readers are thus left with the impression of a man burdened as well as redeemed by mental illness. To the end, Chekhov's treatment of his protagonist remains ambivalent and nonjudgmental.