In the story “Misery” by Anton Chekhov, I identified despair and misery as a theme. The surroundings amplify the sentiment of the main character, Iona Potapov. Cold and gray surrounds’ Iona Potapov and he is extremely miserable. Iona Potapov wants to speak to another human about his son’s death but no one will listen. Failing to speak with any humans, Iona is resigned to speak with his horse.

At the beginning of the story, Anton Chekhov sets the environment for the story. “The twilight of evening.” (30)   While reading this story, I envision the scenery by what Anton Chekhov wrote. “Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on the roofs, horses’ backs, shoulders, caps.” (30) The picture portrayed is that of dull, gloomy, sludge, and gray ash covering all of the surrounding areas. ” The familiar gray landscape.” (30)

The despair and loneliness that Iona feels are sorrow. “May it do you good  . . .  But my son is dead, mate  . . .  Do you hear?” (33). Iona desperately wants to tell about his sons’ death, and how it is affecting him. “He wants to tell how his son was taken ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died”(34). Ionas’ son has died, and he feels as though it should have been he to the grave instead of his youthful son. “My son ought to be driving not I”(34).

The gray dismal surroundings entrap Iona and make the desolation worse for him. “Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost” (30). “He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent” (30). “He cannot think about his son when he is alone” (34). The surroundings make him feel separated from his inner feelings. “But now the shades of evening are falling on the town. The pale light of the street lamps changes to a vivid color, and the bustle of the street grows noisier.”(31)

When Iona tries to tell of his son’s death, he is unable to say what he really feels. “Iona looks  at his fare and moves his lips . . .  Apparently he means to say something, but nothing comes out but a sniff.”(31) He tries again, and is able to say, in a detached tone, “My son . . . , er . . . my son died this week, sir.”(31) The fare is an “officer in a military overcoat.” (31) After this brief conversation, Iona sits in solitude, alone with his thoughts. “Again the wet snow paints him and his horse white. One hour passes, and then another . . . “(31) Iona wants to forget about his son’s death, “but to think of him and picture him is insufferable anguish . . . “(34)

At the end of this story, Iona is left speaking with his horse. “Now, suppose you had a little colt, and you were own mother to that little colt . . .  And all at once that same little colt went and died . . . You’d be sorry, wouldn’t you? . ..”(34) His horse listens as all good horses do. “The little mare munches, listens, and breaths on her master’s hands.”(34) Iona is now content with telling his story to the horse. “Iona is carried away and tells her all about it.”(34)

Feelings and emotions overwhelm us when we manage with the death of a loved one. Guilt, blame, and denial is all part of the experiences we go through in mourning the passing death. A large amount of what we experience is directly related to the environment that we are in when death occurs. Iona had an especially tough time with this experience in the setting that he was placed in. A perfect situation for Iona would have been a week off from work, and surrounded by close friends and family.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0


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