27 pages 54 minutes read

Anton Chekhov


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1898

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Story Analysis

Analysis: “Gooseberries”

As the second part of Chekhov’s The Little Trilogy series (1898), “Gooseberries” stands out thematically from the other two stories. Although the entire series explores the contrast between traditional Russian social expectations and modern Western prospects such as individual freedom, social equality, and human rights, “Gooseberries” approaches the theme through the individual pursuit of happiness, not through unhappy love as in the other two stories.

The central conflict of “Gooseberries,” which unfolds in the story within the story, is the contrast between the two main characters, Ivan and Nicholai Ivanich. Ivan represents a modern Russian man. His profession—a veterinary surgeon—emphasizes reason, science, and empiricism, which aligns with Western ideas in the wake of the Enlightenment. He doesn’t adhere to Russian social norms but instead shows a deep connection with nature and other members of society such as peasants. In contrast, Nicholai clings to traditional Russian ideas. He spends decades pursuing his dream of owning land and becoming a nobleman. The narrative implies that these traditional Russian ideas are absurd and unethical. The title Nicholai takes after his father—Tchimsha-Himalaysky—doesn’t carry noble heritage because his father was “a common soldier” (Paragraph 36) The “good works” Nicholai does for the peasants consist of things like treating them to “half a bucket of vodka” (Paragraph 34), suggesting the corruptive power of Russian traditions.