A high functionary’s daughter loves the theater. She has her father invite the troupe home. She runs off with the “tragédien.” They marry. He loses interest. She becomes a girl Friday. He beats her. She begs her father to send money. It is Chekhov distilled to Chekhov’s essence.
From Chekhov’s early gems. Vanya, a pious high school student, prepares for an exam in Greek, giving alms on the way in hops of getting a good mark. He doesn’t. He gets a 2. He remembers his mistakes. He’d put in white night after white night. Didn’t matter. When it came time to answer, he flubbed. His mother is incensed, mostly with herself for not having beaten him enough and not having the strength now to beat him some more. She implores a boarder to beat up her son for her. The boarder does. The child is then enrolled in a trade school for commerce. The story is a litany of invective as the reader is reduced to watching the demolition of promise, brutality’s misdirection of intellect by a mother too blinded by self-preservation to know patience or love. The boarder’s brutality is familiar to Chekhov, whose father was a brute.