Kate Chopin (1850–1904)
She was born in St. Louis (her birth name was Katherine O’Flaherty), one of five children—the only one to live beyond age 25. After attending Catholic schools, she married Oscar Chopin, a cotton broker, and moved to New Orleans. When he died 12 years later, she was left to raise their six children. Various journals, including Atlantic Monthly and Vogue published her short stories. One of her novels, The Awakening, was controversial because it upheld a woman’s strength in spite of her adulterous life. Chopin’s writings expressed her personal quest for freedom and contributed to the rise of feminism.
The Story of an Hour
Kate Chopin (1894)
Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.
It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband’s friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard’s name leading the list of “killed.” He had only taken time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.
She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow.
There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.
She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.
There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.
She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.
She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.
There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.
Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously, She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will—as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.
When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.
She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.
She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.
There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow–creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.
And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self–assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!
“Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.
Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. “Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door—you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven’s sake open the door.
“Go away. I am not making myself ill.” No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life though that open window.
Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had though with a shudder that life might be long.
She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister’s waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.
Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel–stained, composedly carrying his grip–sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of accident, and did not even know that there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry; at Richards’ quick motion to screen himself from the view of his wife.
But Richards was too late.
When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.
This selection is in the public domain
Responding and Reflection—Questions
Connecting (Imaginative reading)
How is your interest in this story immediately established? How is suspense created?
Locate details in the story that give you a sense of what Mrs. Mallard’s relationship with her husband was like. What is suggested by the mention of new spring life, twittering sparrows, and patches of blue sky in paragraphs five and six?
Mrs. Mallard (in paragraphs eight and nine) is experiencing change. She feels that something is “approaching” her, seeking to “possess her.” What do you think she is struggling with? Had she ever loved her husband
Anton Chekhov (1860—1904)
He was born in a small town in the Ukraine, where he attended grammar school and supported himself as a tutor before enrolling in the Moscow Medical School. Although popularly recognized for comical short stories he published as a student, Chekhov remained in school and became a doctor. He practiced medicine for seven years. During this period, he developed the penetrating but non–judgmental approach to social commentary that characterized his later works. He wrote hundreds of short stories and several plays. In 1888 he was awarded Russia’s Pushkin Prize. Active in medically related social research and service in his later years, he traveled widely, and was married at age 41, three years before his death from tuberculosis.
by Anton Chekhov (1860—1904) Translated by Julius West (1891—1918)
CHARACTERSSTEPAN STEPANOVITCH CHUBUKOV, a landowner NATALYA STEPANOVNA, his daughter, twenty–five years old IVAN VASSILEVITCH LOMOV, a neighbour of Chubukov, a large and hearty, but very suspicious landowner
[A drawing–room in CHUBUKOV’S house.]
[LOMOV enters, wearing a dress–jacket and white gloves. CHUBUKOV rises to meet him.]
CHUBUKOV: My dear fellow, whom do I see! Ivan Vassilevitch! I am extremely glad! [Squeezes his hand] Now this is a surprise, my darling . . . How are you?
LOMOV: Thank you. And how may you be getting on?
CHUBUKOV: We just get along somehow, my angel, to your prayers, and so on. Sit down, please do. . . . Now, you know, you shouldn’t forget all about your neighbours, my darling. My dear fellow, why are you so formal in your get–up? Evening dress, gloves, and so on. Can you be going anywhere, my treasure?
LOMOV: No, I’ve come only to see you, honouredStepanStepanovitch.
CHUBUKOV: Then why are you in evening dress, my precious? As if you’re paying a New Year’s Eve visit!
LOMOV: Well, you see, it’s like this. [Takes his arm] I’ve come to you, honouredStepanStepanovitch, to trouble you with a request. Not once or twice have I already had the privilege of applying to you for help, and you have always, so to speak . . . I must ask your pardon, I am getting excited. I shall drink some water, honouredStepanStepanovitch. [Drinks.]
CHUBUKOV:[Aside] He’s come to borrow money! Shan’t give him any! [Aloud] What is it, my beauty?
LOMOV: You see, HonourStepanitch . . . I beg pardon, StepanHonouritch . . . I mean, I’m awfully excited, as you will please notice. . . . In short, you alone can help me, though I don’t deserve it, of course . . . and haven’t any right to count on your assistance. . . .
CHUBUKOV: Oh, don’t go round and round it, darling! Spit it out! Well?
LOMOV: One moment . . . this very minute. The fact is, I’ve come to ask the hand of your daughter, Natalya Stepanovna, in marriage.
CHUBUKOV:[Joyfully] By Jove! Ivan Vassilevitch! Say it again––I didn’t hear it all!
LOMOV: I have the honour to ask . . .
CHUBUKOV:[Interrupting] My dear fellow . . . I’m so glad, and so on. . . . Yes, indeed, and all that sort of thing. [Embraces and kisses LOMOV] I’ve been hoping for it for a long time. It’s been my continual desire. [Sheds a tear] And I’ve always loved you, my angel, as if you were my own son. May God give you both His help and His love and so on, and I did so much hope . . . What am I behaving in this idiotic way for? I’m off my balance with joy, absolutely off my balance! Oh, with all my soul . . . I’ll go and call Natasha, and all that.
LOMOV:[Greatly moved]HonouredStepanStepanovitch, do you think I may count on her consent?
CHUBUKOV: Why, of course, my darling, and . . . as if she won’t consent! She’s in love; egad, she’s like a love–sick cat, and so on. . . . Shan’t be long! [Exit.]
LOMOV: It’s cold . . . I’m trembling all over, just as if I’d got an examination before me. The great thing is, I must have my mind made up. If I give myself time to think, to hesitate, to talk a lot, to look for an ideal, or for real love, then I’ll never get married. . . . Brr! . . . It’s cold! Natalya Stepanovna is an excellent housekeeper, not bad–looking, well–educated. . . . What more do I want? But I’m getting a noise in my ears from excitement. [Drinks] And it’s impossible for me not to marry. . . . In the first place, I’m already 35––a critical age, so to speak. In the second place, I ought to lead a quiet and regular life. . . . I suffer from palpitations, I’m excitable and always getting awfully upset. . . . At this very moment my lips are trembling, and there’s a twitch in my right eyebrow. . . . But the very worst of all is the way I sleep. I no sooner get into bed and begin to go off when suddenly something in my left side gives a pull, and I can feel it in my shoulder and head. . . . I jump up like a lunatic, walk about a bit, and lie down again, but as soon as I begin to get off to sleep there’s another pull! And this may happen twenty times. . . .
[NATALYA STEPANOVNA comes in.]
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Well, there! It’s you, and papa said, “Go; there’s a merchant come for his goods.” How do you do, Ivan Vassilevitch!
LOMOV: How do you do, honoured Natalya Stepanovna?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: You must excuse my apron and néligé . . . we’re shelling peas for drying. Why haven’t you been here for such a long time? Sit down. [They seat themselves] Won’t you have some lunch?
LOMOV: No, thank you, I’ve had some already.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Then smoke. . . . Here are the matches. . . . The weather is splendid now, but yesterday it was so wet that the workmen didn’t do anything all day. How much hay have you stacked? Just think, I felt greedy and had a whole field cut, and now I’m not at all pleased about it because I’m afraid my hay may rot. I ought to have waited a bit. But what’s this? Why, you’re in evening dress! Well, I never! Are you going to a ball, or what?––though I must say you look better. Tell me, why are you got up like that?
LOMOV:[Excited]You see, honoured Natalya Stepanovna . . . the fact is, I’ve made up my mind to ask you to hear me out. . . . Of course you’ll be surprised and perhaps even angry, but a . . . [Aside]It’s awfully cold!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: What’s the matter? [Pause] Well?
LOMOV: I shall try to be brief. You must know, honoured Natalya Stepanovna, that I have long, since my childhood, in fact, had the privilege of knowing your family. My late aunt and her husband, from whom, as you know, I inherited my land, always had the greatest respect for your father and your late mother. The Lomovs and the Chubukovs have always had the most friendly, and I might almost say the most affectionate, regard for each other. And, as you know, my land is a near neighbour of yours. You will remember that my Oxen Meadows touch your birchwoods.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Excuse my interrupting you. You say, “my Oxen Meadows. . . .” But are they yours?
LOMOV: Yes, mine.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: What are you talking about? Oxen Meadows are ours, not yours!
LOMOV: No, mine, honoured Natalya Stepanovna.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Well, I never knew that before. How do you make that out?
LOMOV: How? I’m speaking of those Oxen Meadows which are wedged in between your birchwoods and the Burnt Marsh.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Yes, yes. . . . They’re ours.
LOMOV: No, you’re mistaken, honoured Natalya Stepanovna, they’re mine.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Just think, Ivan Vassilevitch! How long have they been yours?
LOMOV: How long? As long as I can remember.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Really, you won’t get me to believe that!
LOMOV: But you can see from the documents, honoured Natalya Stepanovna. Oxen Meadows, it’s true, were once the subject of dispute, but now everybody knows that they are mine. There’s nothing to argue about. You see, my aunt’s grandmother gave the free use of these Meadows in perpetuity to the peasants of your father’s grandfather, in return for which they were to make bricks for her. The peasants belonging to your father’s grandfather had the free use of the Meadows for forty years, and had got into the habit of regarding them as their own, when it happened that . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: No, it isn’t at all like that! Both my grandfather and great–grandfather reckoned that their land extended to Burnt Marsh––which means that Oxen Meadows were ours. I don’t see what there is to argue about. It’s simply silly!
LOMOV: I’ll show you the documents, Natalya Stepanovna!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: No, you’re simply joking, or making fun of me. . . . What a surprise! We’ve had the land for nearly three hundred years, and then we’re suddenly told that it isn’t ours! Ivan Vassilevitch, I can hardly believe my own ears. . . . These Meadows aren’t worth much to me. They only come to five dessiatins, and are worth perhaps 300 roubles, but I can’t stand unfairness. Say what you will, but I can’t stand unfairness.
LOMOV: Hear me out, I implore you! The peasants of your father’s grandfather, as I have already had the honour of explaining to you, used to bake bricks for my aunt’s grandmother. Now my aunt’s grandmother, wishing to make them a pleasant . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I can’t make head or tail of all this about aunts and grandfathers and grandmothers! The Meadows are ours, and that’s all.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Ours! You can go on proving it for two days on end, you can go and put on fifteen dress–jackets, but I tell you they’re ours, ours, ours! I don’t want anything of yours and I don’t want to give up anything of mine. So there!
LOMOV: Natalya Ivanovna, I don’t want the Meadows, but I am acting on principle. If you like, I’ll make you a present of them.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I can make you a present of them myself, because they’re mine! Your behaviour, Ivan Vassilevitch, is strange, to say the least! Up to this we have always thought of you as a good neighbour, a friend: last year we lent you our threshing–machine, although on that account we had to put off our own threshing till November, but you behave to us as if we were gipsies. Giving me my own land, indeed! No, really, that’s not at all neighbourly! In my opinion, it’s even impudent, if you want to know. . ..
LOMOV: Then you make out that I’m a land–grabber? Madam, never in my life have I grabbed anybody else’s land, and I shan’t allow anybody to accuse me of having done so. . . . [Quickly steps to the carafe and drinks more water] Oxen Meadows are mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: It’s not true, they’re ours!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: It’s not true! I’ll prove it! I’ll send my mowers out to the Meadows this very day!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: My mowers will be there this very day!
LOMOV: I’ll give it to them in the neck!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: You dare!
LOMOV:[Clutches at his heart] Oxen Meadows are mine! You understand? Mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Please don’t shout! You can shout yourself hoarse in your own house, but here I must ask you to restrain yourself!
LOMOV: If it wasn’t, madam, for this awful, excruciating palpitation, if my whole inside wasn’t upset, I’d talk to you in a different way! [Yells] Oxen Meadows are mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Ours!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Ours!
CHUBUKOV: What’s the matter? What are you shouting at?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Papa, please tell to this gentleman who owns Oxen Meadows, we or he?
CHUBUKOV:[To LOMOV] Darling, the Meadows are ours!
LOMOV: But, please, StepanStepanitch, how can they be yours? Do be a reasonable man! My aunt’s grandmother gave the Meadows for the temporary and free use of your grandfather’s peasants. The peasants used the land for forty years and got as accustomed to it as if it was their own, when it happened that . . .
CHUBUKOV: Excuse me, my precious. . . . You forget just this, that the peasants didn’t pay your grandmother and all that, because the Meadows were in dispute, and so on. And now everybody knows that they’re ours. It means that you haven’t seen the plan.
LOMOV: I’ll prove to you that they’re mine!
CHUBUKOV: You won’t prove it, my darling.
LOMOV: I shall!
CHUBUKOV: Dear one, why yell like that? You won’t prove anything just by yelling. I don’t want anything of yours, and don’t intend to give up what I have. Why should I? And you know, my beloved, that if you propose to go on arguing about it, I’d much sooner give up the meadows to the peasants than to you. There!
LOMOV: I don’t understand! How have you the right to give away somebody else’s property?
CHUBUKOV: You may take it that I know whether I have the right or not. Because, young man, I’m not used to being spoken to in that tone of voice, and so on: I, young man, am twice your age, and ask you to speak to me without agitating yourself, and all that.
LOMOV: No, you just think I’m a fool and want to have me on! You call my land yours, and then you want me to talk to you calmly and politely! Good neighbours don’t behave like that, StepanStepanitch! You’re not a neighbour, you’re a grabber!
CHUBUKOV: What’s that? What did you say?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Papa, send the mowers out to the Meadows at once!
CHUBUKOV: What did you say, sir?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Oxen Meadows are ours, and I shan’t give them up, shan’t give them up, shan’t give them up!
LOMOV: We’ll see! I’ll have the matter taken to court, and then I’ll show you!
CHUBUKOV: To court? You can take it to court, and all that! You can! I know you; you’re just on the look–out for a chance to go to court, and all that. . . . You pettifogger! All your people were like that! All of them!
LOMOV: Never mind about my people! The Lomovs have all been honourable people, and not one has ever been tried for embezzlement, like your grandfather!
CHUBUKOV: You Lomovs have had lunacy in your family, all of you!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: All, all, all!
CHUBUKOV: Your grandfather was a drunkard, and your younger aunt, NastasyaMihailovna, ran away with an architect, and so on.
LOMOV: And your mother was hump–backed. [Clutches at his heart] Something pulling in my side. . . . My head. . . . Help! Water!
CHUBUKOV: Your father was a guzzling gambler!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: And there haven’t been many backbiters to equal your aunt!
LOMOV: My left foot has gone to sleep. . . . You’re an intriguer. . . . Oh, my heart! . . . And it’s an open secret that before the last elections you bri . . . I can see stars. . . . Where’s my hat?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: It’s low! It’s dishonest! It’s mean!
CHUBUKOV: And you’re just a malicious, double–faced intriguer! Yes!
LOMOV: Here’s my hat. . . . My heart! . . . Which way? Where’s the door? Oh! . . . I think I’m dying. . . . My foot’s quite numb. . . .
[Goes to the door.]
CHUBUKOV:[Following him]And don’t set foot in my house again!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Take it to court! We’ll see!
[LOMOV staggers out.]
CHUBUKOV: Devil take him! [Walks about in excitement.]
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: What a rascal! What trust can one have in one’s neighbours after that!
CHUBUKOV: The villain! The scarecrow!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: The monster! First he takes our land and then he has the impudence to abuse us.
CHUBUKOV: And that blind hen, yes, that turnip–ghost has the confounded cheek to make a proposal, and so on! What? A proposal!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: What proposal?
CHUBUKOV: Why, he came here so as to propose to you.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: To propose? To me? Why didn’t you tell me so before?
CHUBUKOV: So he dresses up in evening clothes. The stuffed sausage! The wizen–faced frump!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: To propose to me? Ah! [Falls into an easy–chair and wails] Bring him back! Back! Ah! Bring him here.
CHUBUKOV: Bring whom here?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Quick, quick! I’m ill! Fetch him! [Hysterics.]
CHUBUKOV: What’s that? What’s the matter with you? [Clutches at his head] Oh, unhappy man that I am! I’ll shoot myself! I’ll hang myself! We’ve done for her!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I’m dying! Fetch him!
CHUBUKOV:Tfoo! At once. Don’t yell!
[Runs out.A pause. NATALYA STEPANOVNA wails.]
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: What have they done to me! Fetch him back! Fetch him! [A pause.]
[CHUBUKOV runs in.]
CHUBUKOV: He’s coming, and so on, devil take him! Ouf! Talk to him yourself; I don’t want to. . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA:[Wails]Fetch him!
CHUBUKOV:[Yells] He’s coming, I tell you. Oh, what a burden, Lord, to be the father of a grown–up daughter! I’ll cut my throat! I will, indeed! We cursed him, abused him, drove him out, and it’s all you . . . you!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: No, it was you!
CHUBUKOV: I tell you it’s not my fault. [LOMOV appears at the door] Now you talk to him yourself [Exit.]
[LOMOV enters, exhausted.]
LOMOV: My heart’s palpitating awfully. . . . My foot’s gone to sleep. . . . There’s something keeps pulling in my side.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Forgive us, Ivan Vassilevitch, we were all a little heated. . . . I remember now: Oxen Meadows really are yours.
LOMOV: My heart’s beating awfully. . . . My Meadows. . . . My eyebrows are both twitching. . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: The Meadows are yours, yes, yours. . . . Do sit down. . . . [They sit] We were wrong. . . .
LOMOV: I did it on principle. . . . My land is worth little to me, but the principle . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Yes, the principle, just so. . . . Now let’s talk of something else.
LOMOV: The more so as I have evidence. My aunt’s grandmother gave the land to your father’s grandfather’s peasants . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Yes, yes, let that pass. . . . [Aside] I wish I knew how to get him started. . . . [Aloud] Are you going to start shooting soon?
LOMOV: I’m thinking of having a go at the blackcock, honoured Natalya Stepanovna, after the harvest. Oh, have you heard? Just think, what a misfortune I’ve had! My dog Guess, whom you know, has gone lame.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: What a pity! Why?
LOMOV: I don’t know. . . . Must have got twisted, or bitten by some other dog. . . . [Sighs]My very best dog, to say nothing of the expense. I gave Mironov 125 roubles for him.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: It was too much, Ivan Vassilevitch.
LOMOV: I think it was very cheap. He’s a first–rate dog.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Papa gave 85 roubles for his Squeezer, and Squeezer is heaps better than Guess!
LOMOV: Squeezer better than. Guess? What an idea! [Laughs] Squeezer better than Guess!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Of course he’s better! Of course, Squeezer is young, he may develop a bit, but on points and pedigree he’s better than anything that even Volchanetsky has got.
LOMOV: Excuse me, Natalya Stepanovna, but you forget that he is overshot, and an overshot always means the dog is a bad hunter!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Overshot, is he? The first time I hear it!
LOMOV: I assure you that his lower jaw is shorter than the upper.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Have you measured?
LOMOV: Yes. He’s all right at following, of course, but if you want him to get hold of anything . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: In the first place, our Squeezer is a thoroughbred animal, the son of Harness and Chisels, while there’s no getting at the pedigree of your dog at all. . . . He’s old and as ugly as a worn–out cab–horse.
LOMOV: He is old, but I wouldn’t take five Squeezers for him. . . . Why, how can you? . . . Guess is a dog; as for Squeezer, well, it’s too funny to argue. . . . Anybody you like has a dog as good as Squeezer . . . you may find them under every bush almost. Twenty–five roubles would be a handsome price to pay for him.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: There’s some demon of contradiction in you today, Ivan Vassilevitch. First you pretend that the Meadows are yours; now, that Guess is better than Squeezer. I don’t like people who don’t say what they mean, because you know perfectly well that Squeezer is a hundred times better than your silly Guess. Why do you want to say it isn’t?
LOMOV: I see, Natalya Stepanovna, that you consider me either blind or a fool. You must realize that Squeezer is overshot!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: It’s not true.
LOMOV: He is!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: It’s not true!
LOMOV: Why shout, madam?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Why talk rot? It’s awful! It’s time your Guess was shot, and you compare him with Squeezer!
LOMOV: Excuse me; I cannot continue this discussion: my heart is palpitating.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I’ve noticed that those hunters argue most who know least.
LOMOV: Madam, please be silent. . . . My heart is going to pieces. . . . [Shouts] Shut up!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I shan’t shut up until you acknowledge that Squeezer is a hundred times better than your Guess!
LOMOV: A hundred times worse! Be hanged to your Squeezer! His head . . . eyes . . . shoulder . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: There’s no need to hang your silly Guess; he’s half–dead already!
LOMOV:[Weeps]Shut up! My heart’s bursting!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I shan’t shut up.
CHUBUKOV: What’s the matter now?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Papa, tell us truly, which is the better dog, our Squeezer or his Guess.
LOMOV:StepanStepanovitch, I implore you to tell me just one thing: is your Squeezer overshot or not? Yes or no?
CHUBUKOV: And suppose he is? What does it matter? He’s the best dog in the district for all that, and so on.
LOMOV: But isn’t my Guess better? Really, now?
CHUBUKOV: Don’t excite yourself, my precious one. . . . Allow me. . . . Your Guess certainly has his good points. . . . He’s pure–bred, firm on his feet, has well–sprung ribs, and all that. But, my dear man, if you want to know the truth, that dog has two defects: he’s old and he’s short in the muzzle.
LOMOV: Excuse me, my heart. . . . Let’s take the facts. . . . You will remember that on the Marusinsky hunt my Guess ran neck–and–neck with the Count’s dog, while your Squeezer was left a whole verst behind.
CHUBUKOV: He got left behind because the Count’s whipper–in hit him with his whip.
LOMOV: And with good reason. The dogs are running after a fox, when Squeezer goes and starts worrying a sheep!
CHUBUKOV: It’s not true! . . . My dear fellow, I’m very liable to lose my temper, and so, just because of that, let’s stop arguing. You started because everybody is always jealous of everybody else’s dogs. Yes, we’re all like that! You too, sir, aren’t blameless! You no sooner notice that some dog is better than your Guess than you begin with this, that . . . and the other . . . and all that. . . . I remember everything!
LOMOV: I remember too!
CHUBUKOV:[Teasing him] I remember, too. . . . What do you remember?
LOMOV: My heart . . . my foot’s gone to sleep. . . . I can’t . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA:[Teasing]My heart. . . . What sort of a hunter are you? You ought to go and lie on the kitchen oven and catch blackbeetles, not go after foxes! My heart!
CHUBUKOV: Yes really, what sort of a hunter are you, anyway? You ought to sit at home with your palpitations, and not go tracking animals. You could go hunting, but you only go to argue with people and interfere with their dogs and so on. Let’s change the subject in case I lose my temper. You’re not a hunter at all, anyway!
LOMOV: And are you a hunter? You only go hunting to get in with the Count and to intrigue. . . . Oh, my heart! . . . You’re an intriguer!
CHUBUKOV: What? I an intriguer?[Shouts] Shut up!
CHUBUKOV: Boy! Pup!
LOMOV: Old rat! Jesuit!
CHUBUKOV: Shut up or I’ll shoot you like a partridge! You fool!
LOMOV: Everybody knows that––oh my heart!––your late wife used to beat you. . . . My feet . . . temples . . . sparks. . . . I fall, I fall!
CHUBUKOV: And you’re under the slipper of your housekeeper!
LOMOV: There, there, there . . . my heart’s burst! My shoulder’s come off. . . . Where is my shoulder? I die. [Falls into an armchair] A doctor! [Faints.]
CHUBUKOV: Boy! Milksop! Fool! I’m sick! [Drinks water] Sick!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: What sort of a hunter are you? You can’t even sit on a horse! [To her father] Papa, what’s the matter with him? Papa! Look, papa! [Screams] Ivan Vassilevitch! He’s dead!
CHUBUKOV: I’m sick! . . . I can’t breathe! . . . Air!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: He’s dead. [Pulls LOMOV’S sleeve] Ivan Vassilevitch! Ivan Vassilevitch! What have you done to me? He’s dead. [Falls into an armchair] A doctor, a doctor! [Hysterics.]
CHUBUKOV: Oh! . . . What is it? What’s the matter?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA:[Wails] He’s dead . . . dead!
CHUBUKOV: Who’s dead? [Looks at LOMOV] So he is! My word! Water! A doctor! [Lifts a tumbler to LOMOV’S mouth] Drink this! . . . No, he doesn’t drink. . . . It means he’s dead, and all that. . . . I’m the most unhappy of men! Why don’t I put a bullet into my brain? Why haven’t I cut my throat yet? What am I waiting for? Give me a knife! Give me a pistol! [LOMOV moves] He seems to be coming round. . . . Drink some water! That’s right. . . .
LOMOV: I see stars . . . mist. . . . Where am I?
CHUBUKOV: Hurry up and get married and––well, to the devil with you! She’s willing! [He puts LOMOV’S hand into his daughter’s] She’s willing and all that. I give you my blessing and so on. Only leave me in peace!
LOMOV:[Getting up] Eh? What? To whom?
CHUBUKOV: She’s willing! Well? Kiss and be damned to you!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA:[Wails] He’s alive. . . Yes, yes, I’m willing. . . .
CHUBUKOV: Kiss each other!
LOMOV: Eh? Kiss whom? [They kiss]Very nice, too. Excuse me, what’s it all about? Oh, now I understand . . . my heart . . . stars . . . I’m happy. Natalya Stepanovna. . . . [Kisses her hand] My foot’s gone to sleep. . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I . . . I’m happy too. . . .
CHUBUKOV: What a weight off my shoulders. . . . Ouf!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: But . . . still you will admit now that Guess is worse than Squeezer.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Worse!
CHUBUKOV: Well, that’s a way to start your family bliss! Have some champagne!
LOMOV: He’s better!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA: Worse! worse! worse!
CHUBUKOV:[Trying to shout her down] Champagne! Champagne!
1. 13.5 acres [back]
2. £30 [back]
Reprinted from Plays by Anton Checkov, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1916. This work is in the public domain.
Responding and Reflection—Questions
Humorous exaggeration predominates in the play. Explain how exaggeration makes a particular aspect of the play appealing for you. Which aspects of Lomov’s character, Natalia’s strength, and Chubukov’s motives are emphasized through use of exaggeration?
Marriage was seen as a means of economic stability in Russia when the play was written. But, in approaching marriage it was common to seek wealth and social status as well. How are both of these attitudes humorously criticized in the play? Why should so much conversation be centered on “The Oxen Meadows” and the dogs “Guess and Squeezer”?