Fydor Lukitch Sysoev is dressing for his fourteenth annual dinner held in honor of the school teachers. Sysoev has long been considered the best teacher of all and is eager to grasp glory once again, though he thinks the examining inspector tried to sabotage him by asking his students unnecessarily difficult questions. He is very old and has to lie down before he can pull on his boots. He is applauded at the banquet, but is cantankerous to everyone.

In a toast to Sysoev's greatness, the host mentions that the managers have placed a sum of money in the bank for Sysoev's family after his death. Seeing that the faces around him show neither pity, nor respect, but a terrible truth, he leaps up, then bursts into tears. He is taken home where he tells himself that nothing is wrong with him, even as the doctor in the next room says he has less than a week to live.


The story comments on the despair of the elderly. Having once been powerful, Sysoev is already a dead man in the eyes of his co-workers. He is so powerless that he is not even told of his approaching death.


First published: 1886. Translated by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 11: The Schoolmaster and Other Stories



Place Published

New York