On Easter Eve

Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jun-01-2003
  • Last revised: Sep-05-2006


On the night before Easter, a traveler waits to cross the river to a monastery. Finally, a lay brother named Jerome brings the ferry across. As the ferry moves slowly to the other bank, Jerome reveals his sadness over the death of Nicholas, a fellow monk who wrote beautiful prayers for saints’ days. "Can you tell me, kind master," Jerome asks, "why it is that even in the presence of great happiness a man cannot forget his grief?"

Jerome loved Nicholas who was very quiet, kind and tender, not at all like the other monks, who are loud and harsh. At the monastery the traveler participates in services throughout the night, then returns to the ferry after sunrise on Easter morning. Jerome is still working the ferry. His promised relief has not arrived.


This is one of Chekhov’s small number of "mystical" stories. The traveler’s conversation with the ferryman, perhaps leavened by his later all-night Easter Vigil, leads him to what can best be described as a mystical event as he returns across the river. He experiences a sense of oneness in which grief and happiness, time and eternity, fuse. See The Student (annotated in this database) for a similar mystical experience, which, incidentally, is also related to Holy Week.


First published in 1887. Translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 7: The Bishop and Other Stories



Place Published

New York


1972, 1985

Page Count