Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

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


Dimitry Silin is a farmer who was once a civil servant in St. Petersburg. The narrator, his good friend, is in love with Silin's wife Marya. One Sunday Silin and the narrator drive to the village to buy food. There, as they wait for their coachman, they meet "Forty Martyrs," a downtrodden drunkard who used to work as a footman for each of them. "Forty Martyrs" whines about his fate, while Silin explains to the narrator that we need not tell ghost stories to enter the mysterious and frightening; ordinary life is inexplicable. "What I'm most afraid of is ordinary, everyday existence, which no one can escape. I can't tell the true from the false when I act and this worries me." (p. 227)

He reveals that although he loves his wife, she does not love him--but she has sworn to remain faithful. Later, they return to Silin's home and he retires early because he has to get up at 3 AM. The narrator and Marya talk and eventually make love. As she is leaving his room, Silin comes back to get the cap he had forgotten. "I could not get Silin's terror out of my mind and it infected me as well." (p. 234) The narrator leaves and never sees Silin and Marya again.


This story is about the strangeness and uncertainty in ordinary life. How can we know what is right? How can we tell the good from the evil? As soon as the narrator learns that Marya does not love her husband, he pursues his own attraction to her. Suddenly, Silin's worst fear has come true--his wife in the bed of another man, the friend whom he had trusted. The narrator's shamed retreat is reminiscent of the flight of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.


First published in 1892. Translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 4: The Party and Other Stories



Place Published

New York


1972, 1984

Page Count