27 pages 54 minutes read

Anton Chekhov


Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1898

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Important Quotes

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“From early morning the sky had been overcast with clouds; the day was still, cool, and wearisome, as usual on grey, dull days when the clouds hang low over the fields and it looks like rain, which never comes.”

(Paragraph 1)

Chekhov establishes the mood of the story through climatic symbolism from the very beginning. The days are “wearisome,” “overcast with clouds,” suggesting a sense of oppression and despair. Rain, a symbol of change, “never comes” to this land.

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“The mill was working, drowning the sound of the rain, and the dam shook. Round the carts stood wet horses, hanging their heads, and men were walking about with their heads covered with sacks. It was wet, muddy, and unpleasant, and the river looked cold and sullen. Ivan Ivanich and Bourkin felt wet and uncomfortable through and through; their feet were tired with walking in the mud, and they walked past the dam to the barn in silence as though they were angry with each other.”

(Paragraph 8)

In Chekhov’s story, natural scenes usually carry dual functions. First, they help create a lifelike world. The details of mills and dams represent the typical Russian countryside views that unfold as Ivan and Bourkin walk toward Aliokhin’s place. Second, nature often has symbolic meanings and suggests a mood. The “cold and sullen” river here mirrors the characters’ internal state (“angry”), reminding them that the countryside isn’t always idyllic and foreshadowing Nicholai’s materialistic perception of nature.

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“Ivan Ivanich came out of the shed, plunged into the water with a splash, and swam about in the rain, flapping his arms, and sending waves back, and on the waves tossed white lilies; he swam out to the middle of the pool and dived, and in a minute came up again in another place and kept on swimming and diving, trying to reach the bottom. ‘Ah! how delicious!’ he shouted in his glee. ‘How delicious!’ He swam to the mill, spoke to the peasants, and came back, and in the middle of the pool he lay on his back to let the rain fall on his face.”

(Paragraph 18)

This scene develops the theme of Individual Freedom Versus Social Expectations. Ivan’s behavior—jumping into the pool in the rain—suggests how little regard he has for social norms. He embodies the modern ideas of individual freedom. His take on nature and countryside is naive and idealistic: “Water” is “delicious” and “peasants” are his companions.