Communication and Non-Communication

Communication and its interruptions bear much importance throughout Chekhov's stories. In particular, the author focuses on the extent of communication between people of different social classes and the diverse views these people hold on social inequality. Some characters take positive steps to discuss this issue—such as Ivan in "Gooseberries," who wants to open channels of communication between the landowners and the peasants. But as we see in "My Life" or in "In the Ravine," these channels sometimes either do not exist or are easily broken down. Often, the characters simply fail to understand one another's point of view. For example, in "Ward No. Six," we see that Rabin is desperate to share his ideas with the gifted lunatic Gromov, who openly dismisses Rabin's ideas as "rationalization" (although the doctor is finally convinced of the lunatic's philosophy.) In "On Official Duty," the constable Loshadin talks to the examining magistrate about duty and personal responsibility, but the young man seems more depressed than animated by their conversation. On a more personal level, Olga in "The Darling" has no views of her own to express, while Gurov in "The Lady with the Dog" finds that he cannot communicate with his friends or his wife. In general, therefore, Chekhov's characters search for understanding but fall short in their inability or reluctance to communicate.

The Natural World

Many tales, such as "Agafya" and Steppe, are set in the Russian countryside and focus on the beauty of its landscape. Chekhov is clearly intrigued by his characters' relationship to the land and how this varies—or does not vary—according to social standing. Peasants work to earn their daily bread, while some members of the upper class drive around in grand chaises admiring the view. Often, it is Chekhov's aristocratic characters who seem shocked by the diverse wildlife and scope of their surroundings. For example, little Yegorushka in Steppe is bemused by the steppe's vast distances, while Gurov in "The Lady With the Dog" admires scenic sea views from a vantage point in Yalta. Nature consistently inspires either fear, wonder, or discomfort in Chekhov's protagonists. Often, Chekhov's impressionistic evocation of the landscape overshadows his plot altogether. In particular, we see that Steppe's major focus is its setting, rather than the events that it describes.