Hope as a Symbol in the Work of Anton Chekov

Anton-Chekov_1889Spirituality and Hope

Anton Chekhov had elements of Christianity and Judaism in his works, but his true religion was that of the people.  Out of all belief systems, Chekhov identified with hope.  In hope, he found the higher existence which romanticism relied heavily upon.

Perhaps his scientific studies kept him from rooted and realistic, but his soul wandered out of reach.  Chekhov believed so much in ever expanding knowledge and the shifts of consciousness, that many times his characters have lengthy monologues concerning the people of the future.

In Three Sisters, Vershinin says, “In the course of two hundred, three hundred years, life on this earth will be inconceivably beautiful, wonderful.  Man stands in need of a life like that, and if it isn’t here yet, then he must intuitively, wait, dream, prepare for it…” If it weren’t for the ongoing physical battle Chekhov constantly endured, he may not have been able to reach such great heights in his spiritual realm.

It’s a mistake to take Chekhov’s work as complete realism, because then one might miss the lesson in his words.  The characters may speak simplistically, but that’s not to confuse them with being simple.  True simplistic writing occurs when it derives straight from the heart.


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Four years before his passing, Chekhov wrote, “I only wanted to tell people honestly:  Look, look at how badly you live, how boring are your lives.  The important thing is that people should understand this; if they do understand this, they will certainly invent a different and a far better life. Man will become better only once we have shown him as he is.”

It wasn’t always easy for Chekhov to carry on in a world he found somewhat unsatisfactory, and the final speech in Three Sisters emulates what higher existence meant to Chekhov, “Look at that tree standing there, it’s dried up, but see it sway in the wind together with the other trees.

So it seems to me that if I should die, I too will take part in life one way or another.”   One of the fundamentals of romanticism is all of creation is related in one way or another, and here is Chekhov comparing his own existence and foreboding death to a dried up tree.

Chekhov’s characters are constantly involved in trivial conversations with in due course become conversations about the meaning of life.  The apparent antithesis is a tool; the prior is used as a realistic mirror, while the latter is used as a portal to the heavens.