The Beggar

Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

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


A prosperous lawyer (Skvortsoff) encounters a ragged beggar, who claims to be a teacher fired unjustly from his job. Skvortsoff, however, remembers that he saw the same man the other day, when he had claimed to be an impoverished student. The beggar (Luskoff) breaks down and admits that he is simply a drunk without work. Skvortsoff offers him a job chopping wood, which he reluctantly accepts. Olga, the cook, takes Luskoff out and shows him the wood stack.

After that, Luskoff returns frequently to do odd jobs, and eventually Skvortsoff sets him up with a clerical position. Two years later, Skvortsoff sees the former beggar at the theater. He prides himself for having "saved" Lushkoff from a life of drunkenness, but Lushkoff reveals that it was Olga who saved him--she chopped the wood, and the compassion she showed led to a change in his heart.


This is a moral tale in which the arrogant and self-righteous lawyer thinks he has "saved" the beggar by teaching him how to work for a living. In fact, he would have never continued the original task (or even begun it), if it weren't for the example of the lawyer's compassionate cook, who quietly chopped the wood for him without expecting anything in return. It was Olga's example of self-sacrifice, not Skvortsoff's example of "do-goodism" that inspired the man to change his life.


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

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 8: The Horse Stealer and Other Stories



Place Published

New York



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