Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: May-27-2003


To whom shall I tell my grief? Grief must be shared. The son of Iona Potapov, an old cabman, has died. He sits lost in his thoughts, mourning his son. He tries to share his feelings (or at least to tell his story) with each of the people who engage his cab. Iona says to each of them, "My son died last week."

The first passenger responds by asking, "What did he die of?" Iona tells a second group of passengers, "This week my son died." They give him a flip response, "We shall all die." Again, this trivializes his story and his feelings. No one listens. No one is willing to make contact with him. When he tells one of his colleagues at the yard, "but my son is dead," the person doesn't even bother to answer.

Iona "thirsts for speech." He needs to occupy his mind, to share his anguish, to avoid the silence in which he imagines his son. "To talk about him with someone is possible, but to think of him and picture him is insufferable anguish . . ." In the end Iona is reduced to experiencing some relief in the warm, animal companionship of his horse. As he tells his sad story to the mare, she "breathes on her master's hands."


First published: 1886. Translated by Constance Garnett

Primary Source

The Schoolmistress and Other Stories



Place Published

New York