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Anton Chekhov, Russia (1860-1904)

In this story, Alyohin, a narrator is the main character. He is a graduated person but he chose to work in his own field with his servants because his land was heavily mortgaged by his acparents for his study. One morning Alyohin was having breakfast with his friends (Burkin and Ivan). Alyohin told them about the different love affairs: first about his servants and then about his own.  In the story, the writer talks about expressed love of Nikanor and Palegeya and unexpressed love of Alyohin and Anna.

Three friends Alyohin, Burkin and Ivan are having breakfast in Alyohin’s house. In the meantime, Nikanor, his servant came to ask what the guests would like to have for dinner in the evening. When Alyohin looked at Nikanor, he reminded of his love affair with Pelageya and started to tell the story. After his story over, Alyohin told about his own experience. Then the conversation turned to love as there was rain outside, the sky full of dark clouds and the trees drenched with raindrops. In such a time people could go nowhere but listen and tell stories to each other. So Alyohin began his own love affair with Anna. When it was over, the sky became clear outside and it was bright. Ivan and Burkin became very sad hearing his love affair and said that Alyohin was really like a squirrel in a cage. This setting of the story clearly matches with the mood of the character.

According to Alyohin, his cook Nikanor and maid Palegeya, are in love. Their love is an expressed, physical and romantic. Nikanor loves Palegeya and wants to marry her. He is a religious person, and his religion doesn't allow him to establish any further relation with her before marrying. However, he drinks alcohol excessively and beats her. Paleyega also loves him very much. Nevertheless, on contrary, she wants to live with him just so without marrying. Paleyega has a modern concept of love because she doesn’t want to marry Nikanor.

Then the narrator starts telling his own love affair with a girl with whom he lived while he was studying in Moscow. He loved her but the girl only think about the money that he would provide her for housekeeping and for other purposes. Since their love was conditioned by money it can be categorized under material love, a selfish love.

While he was telling the love story of Nikanor and Paleyega, and his own, he remembers about his love affair with Anna, a young married woman. Once Alyohin was elected honorary justice and he had to go to the town. There he had a good friendship with Mr. Luganovich, an assistant president of the circuit court. Alyohin was invited by Luganovich to have a dinner at his home, and Alyohin got an opportunity to see his beautiful wife, Anna Alexeyevna. Alyohin was influenced by her beauty and she was also attracted by his physical structure. They soon fell in love but couldn’t express their feelings with each other. Anna, the mother of a baby, was younger and beautiful. Her image began to move in Alyohin’s mind all the time. Anna also found Alyohin younger and smarter than her husband.   

One day, Alyohin met her in the party. He found her more beautiful than before. They went to see a play in theatre together. Then Alyohin started visiting her frequently. Anyway, he didn’t express his love because he did not like to destroy the conjugal life of his friend. He was uncertain about his own economic condition and love for her. Anna also could not express her love because she was married. Slowly and gradually, she became moody because of her unfulfilled desire. In fact, she became psychologically ill. Finally, during the treatment, her doctor advised Mr. Luganovich to take her to Crimea for mental treatment.

As Anna set out to Crimea, many people came to see her off. She boarded the train. When she realized that she had forgotten to take her basket, Alyohin rushed to her with the basket. She was desperately sitting in the compartment. When Alyohin came to drop her basket in the compartment, all at the sudden their eyes met. Then he embraced her in his arm. She pressed her face on his chest. He kissed her and confessed his love. Then he realized that their love was obstructed by some unimportant but fatal questions. Both of them cried and then departed. Actually, Alyohin did not give any importance to her physical or economic condition but simply loved her. So, we can say that it was a pure love or spiritual love.

His condition, therefore was like a squirrel that rushes around in a cage because just like the squirrel cannot come out of the cage breaking iron bars. Alyohin could not come out of his poor economic condition and could not fight against the fatal questions that were the preventive of his love. Despite being a scholar he was condemned to work in his field being penniless and despite being young he was a lovelorn (unhappy in love) bachelor.


  1. why couldn't alyohin and anna express their love to each other?


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