The Duel

Chekhov, Anton

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

  • Date of entry: May-27-2003
  • Last revised: Aug-17-2006


A group of ex-Muscovites are living in the hot and humid Caucasus. Among them are Laevsky, Nadyezhda Fyodorovna, Von Koren, Samoylenko, and a deacon. Laevsky and Nadyezhda are lovers. They came to the town to flee Nadyezhda’s husband and to live together in their own home. Instead, they remain in rented rooms. Laevsky drinks, gambles, and blankly performs the few tasks necessary in his government job. He spends much of his time figuring out how to get away from Nadyezhda, whom he has grown to hate. Nadyezhda herself is bored and has affairs.

Von Koren is a rigid marine scientist who deplores Laevsky for his indecision and apathetic philosophy. Von Koren believes that creatures like Laevsky who do no good should be killed, because natural selection ought to guide ethical decisions. He tries to act out his plan when the two duel, but is surprised by the Deacon and misses his shot. Laevsky’s shock at his close call drives him back to Nadyezhda.

Samoylenko is a physician and tries to be a peacemaker, but ultimately gets walked on. The Deacon dreams passively about glory in the Church or even in a remote village, but does little except laugh at his neighbors. The story is composed of a series of visits and conversations among the characters.


Chekhov explores and rejects several methods for dealing with the world. His characters are all distasteful. The cold, hard science of Von Koren is violent and impossibly strict. Samoylenko’s compassion is touching, but finally useless. Nadyezhda Fyodorovna has potential, but wastes her life in vain flirting. Laevsky threatens to ruin himself and his lover through his apathy. After his duel, he strives to be industrious, but seems suddenly dull and pointless. The Deacon makes a mockery of religious principles, being neither loving nor non-judgmental.


First published: 1891. Translated by Constance Garnett.

Primary Source

The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 2: The Duel and Other Stories



Place Published

New York