“Sorrow” is a story written by a famous Russian writer and storyteller Chekhov. This short story shares many qualities with Chekhov’s other works.
It begins with a description of a cold winter night and a man who, covered in snow, waits for a customer with his horse. The illusion of an ideal town covered in snow replaces the feeling of coldness and tiredness which mix with fear and the feeling of not belonging. The true discomfort isn’t the outer one but the inner one. First, we get an insight into the inner, emotional state of the horse. He was taken away from a farm on which he spent his entire life, and now he had to put up with the noise, filth and chaos of the city which provoked distrust and fear in him. It isn’t the worst faith Chekhov wants to show us. Iona, the horse’s owner, is hurting because of his son’s death. He doesn’t know how to deal with it, and the sadness is tearing his mind apart. He wanted to talk about his feelings, but he couldn’t find anyone who would listen to his tragic story.
This moment from Iona’s life is incredibly filled with emotions. From the beginning, the reader can feel something is wrong and that something bad will happen and that feeling starts with the coldness, cold people and then it ends with Iona’s sad life. As the story reaches its end, the discomfort rises. The story becomes anxious and even more depressed. The reader not only has compassion for the main character but he also feels as if he was the main character. Even though few events occur in the story, its plot is tense and dramatic until the very end because of the insight we have into the characters psychological life.
The narrator is in the 3rd person so he knows everything there is to know about the plot and he provides us with the exact characterization of the character through the dialogues, the character’s actions and thoughts. We get the real impression of the character because his world is shown out of his point of view. We can notice that other characters don’t have names and they are personified by one of their characteristics given to them by the main character. Taking nameless characters out of the masses makes us feel like they are random people who serve to represent the society in general. They are cruel, vicious and rude. They treat Iona like he isn’t human and like his only purpose is to do his job and all Iona wanted was some love, compassion and humanity. He doesn’t find what he’s looking for so he starts to speak to his horse. The symbol of outer coldness reflects on people’s cold hearts. The coldness is trying to make its way to Iona’s heart but fails because there is no room for it next to all of the sadness.
The story doesn’t look for a solution or carries a big moral. It just represents the world realistically, individuals lost in the world’s coldness and the pain and tragedy hidden in a single man. The story is showing us real sorrow and misery that are torturing Iona.
Time: 19th century
In the evening the snow fell on Iona Potapov and his horse. Iona was sitting in his place, immobile just like his horse that looked like a cake with all of the snow that fell on him. Both of them drifted away to their worlds. Iona thought about the misery ruling his life and the horse thought about the peaceful farm he used to live on before someone dragged him to the smelly, loud town. Iona and the horse left in the morning, and they weren’t about to go back home even thought fog had covered the entire city. The crown was getting louder and louder.
Iona heard a man in the uniform calling for him. It took some time for Iona to move when Uniform grabbed him and asked his whether he was sleeping in his carriage. Iona pulled the reins harder as a sign he had heard him. Uniform stepped into the carriage and told him which street he needed to go to. While they were going Uniform kept on criticizing Iona’s driving. Iona turned to Uniform, not even looking where he was going, but instead of saying something he just produced a noise. Uniform got a bit scared and the Iona tried to talk again and through a fake smile he just sad that his son had died last Sunday. Uniform asked him about the cause of death but Iona didn’t know what it was. His son got the fever and died three days later in the hospital. He heard someone shouting about his driving so he had to keep his eyes on the road. Uniform told him to go faster and when Iona turned around to finish his story he saw Uniform with his eyes closed, not interested in listening to his story.
Iona dropped the man off and kept on sitting in his place. The snow started to cover him and his horse again. Three young men, crossing the street, called for him. Two of them were tall and slim, and the third one was short. They underpaid Iona, but he didn’t mind it because he just needed customers.
The young man managed to get into the carriage, shouting, swearing and hitting each other. Two of them sat down while the short one had to stand. The short one offended Iona’s hat but Iona didn’t care because for him they were just a bunch of playful young people. They were bragging about their drinking escapades and women they got involved with while the short one complained about Iona not driving fast enough, even though they were in the middle of a crowded street. Iona felt him breathing down his neck so he waited for the boys to start talking to tell them that his son had died. The short one said that we are all bound to die one day and that he should hurry up. His friends told him that he should hit Iona to make him go faster. Iona didn’t feel it at all and he just smiled. The short one asked him if he was married and Iona told him that the ground was his wife and how death came knocking at his door but took his son instead. The boys just mumbled that they are finally here and they went away.
Iona was alone again. Snow and peace surrounded him as well as pain and sadness. He felt like his chest as falling apart so he looked at the crowd of people, hoping one of them will enter his carriage. People just walked by without noticing his sadness. Iona hoped that he would find someone who will listen to him, who will allow him to share his pain instead of holding it bottled inside. It seemed to him that if he exploded the whole world would be covered with sadness. Iona spotted a man and asked him what time it was. The man told him and then chased him away. Iona went away and kept on sitting immobile. He surrendered himself to sadness, and when he felt it was all too much for him, he took the horse back to the stable.
After half an hour Iona was sitting by the fireplace. A lot of people were sleeping and snoring around it. It was stuffy and hot, and Iona regretted coming back so soon. He thought that he didn’t finish his duty because he didn’t earn enough money for his or the horse’s food. Iona noticed a young man reaching for a glass of water. He asked him if he was thirsty and the man said he was. Iona tried to tell him about his son but the man just pulled the blanket over his head because he didn’t want to listen to him. Iona had a burning desire to share his problems with someone just like the man was thirsty. Iona couldn’t talk to anyone since his son died because he wanted to have an intelligent conversation. He wanted to tell everything from the beginning: how his son got ill, how he suffered, what he said on his death bed, going to the hospital to get his body, and he wanted to talk about the daughter he has. He wanted someone who will listen and cry if necessary.
Iona thought it would be a smart idea to check up on the horse. He got dressed and went to the stables. He thought about the horse’s food and his son, and it was unbearable for him. He just wanted to share his burden with someone. He saw his horse eating hay, and he told him that it’s better than nothing. He told the horse that he was getting old and that his son should take over the carriage now. He stopped for a moment and told his horse that his son was gone forever. He talked about death taking him away his time in the hospital, and the horse just ate hay listening to him spilling his heart out.
Characters: Iona, uniform, three young men, a young man in the stable, horse
Iona is the main and the only relevant character of the story. He is a symbol of a sad and lonely man looking for someone to help him in his sufferings. Iona went through the worst tragedy of all – he lost his son, and all he wanted to do was to share his burden with someone. The character represents human’s universal need to make things easier for himself by telling someone his problems and looking for compassion and comfort. Iona tries to find someone to talk to in strangers so he puts up with insults, humiliation and other discomforts just to see if there was hope he’ll find someone willing to talk to him.
The sadness in his heart was so big it could have torn him apart. As long as he didn’t give into thoughts and memories, he managed to control his sadness. Often he would get into a state of immobility in which he thought and waited for something and someone. The sadness would grow so big then he felt it was coming out of him.
It seemed as life itself was punishing Iona. He knew there wasn’t a place where he could hide from the sadness, so he wanted to liberate it with the help of another man. People weren’t meant to be alone and survive his problems alone. Seeking for comfort in other people is natural. Unfortunately, the only creature willing to listen to him was his horse. Iona took great care of his horse and felt guilty because he couldn’t help buy his horse better food. It was a sign of Iona’s goodness. All he wanted was an ordinary life course – taking care of his kids who would, later on, take care of him. Unfortunately, death came for his son and made a torturer out of him.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov Biography
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born in 1860 in Ukraine. He finished high school in his hometown and went to med school in Moscow. He had a heart condition and married the actress O. L. Knipper
As a student, he started writing and except for plays he also wrote novels and stories. His best works are mostly short stories. Chekov had a great influence on the development of playwriting.
Some of his most famous works are: “Uncle Vanya”, “Three Sisters”, “The Cherry Orchard”.
He wrote short stories about people who were changed by the social reality. His plots are simple with no big heroes or events. He died in Badenweiler hospital in 1904.