Chekhov Stories

by: Anton Chekhov

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Kovrin now believed that he was one of God's chosen and a genius; he vividly recalled his conversations with the monk in the past and tried to speak, but the blood flowed from his throat onto his breast, and not knowing what he was doing, he passed his hands over his breast, and his cuffs were soaked with blood….

He called Tania, called to the great orchard with the gorgeous flowers sprinkled with dew, called to the park, the pines with their shaggy roots, the rye fields, his marvelous learning, his youth, courage, joy—called to life, which was so lovely. He could see on the floor near his face a great pool of blood, and was too weak to utter a word, but an unspeakable, infinite happiness flooded his whole being. Below, under the balcony, they were playing the serenade, and the black monk whispered to him that he was a genius, and that he was dying only because his frail human body had lost its balance and could no longer serve as the mortal garb of genius.

When Varvara woke up and came out from behind the screen, Kovrin was dead, and a blissful smile had congealed on his face.

This passage comes at the end of The Black Monk. It is an example of a Chekovian "surprise ending"—in that it has a definite and shocking climax—and thus contrasts with the "zero" endings that the author uses elsewhere. The passage incorporates some common themes of Chekhov including disease (tuberculosis), mental illness, and man's quest for fulfillment. We see that Kovrin's hallucinations merge with the memories of his childhood, creating a scene that is frenzied yet strangely touching. Although Kovin dies, he does so with a "blissful smile" on his lips, perfectly satisfied with his moment of supreme understanding. Thus, Chekhov presents his protagonist's mental illness with subtle ambivalence, seeing it as a disease that can destroy as well as an "infinite happiness" that can redeem.

As always, details are important for Chekhov—he notes that Kovrin's cuffs are soaked with blood, and that the protagonist thinks about "shaggy roots" and the dew "sprinkled" on flowers. Chekhov thus recreates the tangled minutiae of Kovrin's final thoughts, making his death seem more authentic and more moving.