Posted in Short Stories

Anton Chekhov: The Student

A Short Story Easter Extra

In the Gospel it says ‘And he went out and wept bitterly.’ I can imagine a very still and very dark garden where in the quiet there can be heard, just barely, lonely sobbing.”

In Anton Chekhov’s “The Student”, a seminary student comes across a campfire on a dark and cold night. The couple of ladies sitting by it remind him of the story of Peter’s denial of Christ in the New Testament Gospels. He’s comfortable enough with his company to tell them that story.

The story from the Bible ends with Peter sobbing. As the story sinks in, one of the ladies begins sobbing. As the student leaves the campfire, he starts sobbing, too.

Throughout Chekhov’s story, the fire contrasts with the darkness and coldness of the night. The emotional domino effect gives the story an intriguing spiral. In the New Testament account we know why Peter cries, but in Chekhov’s story the reason for the lady and the student crying isn’t quite as clear.

It’s obvious that the story has sparked (maybe pun intended) something in them. Is it simply a reaction to the artistry and story-telling of the student? Is it an action and reaction between the lady and the student? Is there some sort of religious conversion going on?

I’m going with a “yes” to the first question as the little bit of research I’ve done about Chekhov indicates that he wasn’t really a religious man so maybe the emotion stems from the artistic power.

Speaking of art, the painting at the top of this post is Denial of Peter by Karel Dujardin.

Happy Easter!

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