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Chekov_LJ Williams_scranton Uni_Early

Chekov_LJ Williams_scranton Uni_Early

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EXPERIENCE
 "
It is bad for the artist to take on something he doesn't understand 
.
"Anton Chekhov
"Of things Russian, I love now most of all the Russian childlike quality of Pushkin and Chekhov,their shy lack of concern over such momentous matters as the ultimate aims of mankind and their own salvation. They understood all that very well, but they were far too modest and consideresuch things beyond their rank and position. . . . those two were to the end distracted by thecurrent private interests of their artistic calling and in this preoccupation lived out their lives alsoas a private matter of no concern to anyone else. And now, this private matter turns out to be of general concern and, like apples removed the tree to ripen, keeps filling of itself in positivity withever greater sweetness and meaning." 
 Boris Pasternak throughDr
.
ZhivagoChekhov, unlike most of the writers of his time, was not from the upper classes of Russian society
.
 He was a 'classless one,' raznochintsy who had grown up as part of the lower strata of Russiansociety
.
He had a different world view than most of the writers of his time because of his birth,experience, artistic impressionism and scientific background
.
This experiential base was essentialto Chekhov both for bridging the gaps between the classes in Russian society and for smashing thefalse images about the lower depths of Russian society held by educated Russians
.
This profile of his life experience and travels in this chapter has been drawn from his personal correspondence
.
Chekhov agreed that knowledge gained from experience was essential for any writer
.
He realizedthat an author "observes, selects, guesses and synthesizes
.
" This process involved the "filtering" of many individual instances to arrive at
.
what was "typical
.
" Since Chekhov's experience is anessential element in his role as an impressionistic, objective observer, it is necessary to catalog hisvarious types of experience
.
This will establish his "Knowledge" base and explain how theseexperiences help to form him intellectually
.
 Chekchov was born into a family that rested on the dividing line between the lower and middleclass in Russian traditional society
.
Chekhov's father was obsessed with the idea of becoming afinancial success as a storekeeper in Taganrog
.
Unfortunately, the business failed and his fathermoved to Moscow
.
The experience provided the young Chekhov with first-hand knowledge of middle class society deteriorating in a provincial town
.
 Chekhov also learned from his family's oral tradition
.
On both sides, his family had been serfs forgenerations
.
Chekhov's grandfather worked himself up to the position of foreman, amassed 3500rubles, a fortune for a serf, and was able to buy the freedom of all but his only daughter
.
Hisowner, Count A
.
D
.
Chertkov, generously threw into the bargain Chekhov's aunt
.
So in 1841 thefamily of Yegor Mikhailovich Chekhov was legally free of bondage
.
Chekhov gained a very personalknowledge of serfdom from stories told by his and others in the family
.
He also learned of life onthe great estates in this way
.
 Chekhov's mother, also from a former serf family, was similarly freed from bondage
.
She oftentold her children of travels with her merchant father through Russia in the time of serfdom and of the conditions in the villages
.
Often these stories were followed by their nurse telling them of theold days or telling the old fairy tales of Russian folflore
.
 
1
 The process of learning from the experiences of others, especially from his family, continuedthroughout Chekhov's life
.
From Alexander, an older brother, he gleaned knowledge of what it waslike to be a customs official a journalist, and a drunken failure with various common law wives
.
 Ivan, a younger brother, became a successful teacher in a parish school in a small town andprovided Chekhov with valuable impressions regarding Russian education
.
Nikolai, his other olderbrother, an artist with limited talent, physical strength and character, died in his youth of consumption
.
Chekhov was introduced to the rougher levels of the artistic world through Nikolai
.
 Chekhov learned of the life of the lower middle class in various roles from his family
.
 
 
From his family's experience he had first-hand knowledge of the touch of death
.
Chekhov's brotherNikolai and his uncle both died of consumption
.
Consumption lurked as a very real threat toChekhov
.
It was perhaps fear that made Chekhov refuse to recognize his own very obvioussymptoms of consumption
.
This experience helped Chekhov, the writer, add depth to his treatmentof illness, death and the fear of both
.
 
2
 Chekhov's own early experiences were tied to Taganrog
.
Chekhov's grandfather, through his greatshrewdness and energy, eventually became the steward of a great estate near Taganrog
.
 Chekhov's grandfather believed that education was important for success so he made sure hischildren were literate
.
Chekhov's own- father inherited a strong belief in education and sent hischildren to school
.
A classic case of a middle-class ethic in operation can be seen here
.
 Chekhov attended several schools in Taganrog nad for one year attended a Greek school operatedby an ex-pirate, Nicholas Voutsina
.
 
3
 This experience had mixed results and Chekhov learned littlein the Greek school
.
In addition Chekhov's father was not too sure of the value of a liberal artseducation; so when he turned thirteen, Chekhov was sent to tailoring classes at the districtindustrial school
.
Besides his schooling, Chechov had to tend his father's newly opened store
.
Hisfather organized a church choir in which he was forced to sing and then attend church services
.
 Such a regime occupied most of Chekhov's waking hours
.
 
4
 Taganrog's many facets each made adistinct impression on Chekhov
.
Although the city had been a thriving trade center, Chekhovwitnessed its decline because of changes in the Russian economy
.
In reality, there were twotowns
.
One the traditional Russian town of the poor laborers and equally poor Russianshopkeepers; the other a town of Western Europeans, Greeks, Italians, Germans and even a fewEnglish, who owned the export-import firms that dominated the town's economy
.
Foreignmillionaires supported a symphony, an opera, a local theater, and imported Italian prima donnas
.
 The cosmopolitan environment of the city exposed Chekhov to some aspects of Western culture
.
 Thus, the young boy experienced the contrast of Russian poverty and Western affluences
.
5
 Chekhov's family moved to Moscow leaving him to fend for himself in Taganrog
.
Chekhov spentseveral years on his own at school, reading insatiably at the library and undergoing a generaltransformation
.
Chekhov developed from the sixteen year old Anton, who was still locked in by thementality of a traditional environment, to a nineteen year old Anton Chekhov, who began to viewlife through the eyes of a maturing young thinker
.
 
6
 He was rejecting the values of his father'sclass and time but it was not a violent rebellion
.
It would not end until Chekhov had "squeezed theslave out" of himself by becoming a mature, intellectually years later
.
In the process, Chekhov wason his way toward bridging the Russian cultural gulf 
.
 In sum, from an early age, Chekhov acquired a picture of Russian peasant life and serfdom,became aware of the quality of life of the merchant class, learned about the workings of the lowerrange bureaucracy, the teaching profession and the Bohemian artist community, and becamefamiliar with life on the great estates, in the small villages, and in a provincial Russian city
.
Heeven had a passing glance at Western culture as it existed in Taganrog
.
 Although these general experiences and impressions were important, his own direct experienceswere to provide him with his greatest amount of source material
.
His own experiences as a childincluded: periodic visits to the great estate where his grandfather was steward, living as the son of a clerk and then storekeeper, playing with peasant boys and just growing up in Taganrog
.
All thesegave him a broad base of experience
.
 His personal experiences were intensified when his father went bankrupt in 1876 and he had tocope with poverty
.
To alleviate his financial need, Chekhov became a tutor for a wealthy man'snephew
.
As a tutor, he was exposed to and associated with the upper middle-class andoccasionally the lower edge of the upper-clan, despite his delicate economic circumstances
.
 Chekhov knew what it was like to defer to others because you had no money and they did; avaluable insight for a writer
.
 His tutoring position helped him survive the bankruptcy
.
When he joined his family in Moscow, hestarted medical school and also assumed a good deal of responsibility for the family
.
His father's job paid little and required him to live at his place of employment
.
Anton Chekhov was driven towrite out of financial need and thus he wrote his "smelts
.
" The family was happy but existed onlyby a good deal of effort and ingenuity on Anton's part
.
 
 
In Moscow the Chekhov family lived in a basement apartment of the St
.
Nicholas district, a redlight district filled with rundown apartments and shabby shops peopled by the indigent orcorrupt
.
 
7
 Chekhov tended to socialize with his brother Nikolai, an alcoholic, and his friends
.
Heaccompanied them to the Salon des Variétés a true fleshpot filled with carnal delights
.
Chekhovwas familiar with the rough side of Moscow which proved essential to him as a writer
.
 
8
 Chekhov was able to gradually improve his family's housing and he experienced many strata of Muscovite life
.
He could at various times move among students, journalists, lower class workers,middle class merchants, professionals, and finally members of the literary elite
.
Chekhov had seenall that there was to see in Moscow
.
 Chekhov loved and hated Moscow
.
He spent most of his adult life in the city or in the countrysidearound it
.
The effect of his experiences is revealed in many of his works
.
 In one of the Moscow apartments where the Chekhovs lived the floor above them was rented forweddings
.
The Chekhovs would hold mock weddings themselves and dance to the music fromupstairs
.
 
9
 Blending such experiences with several other stories he had written while in Moscow, hecreated a one act light comedy, "The Wedding
.
"Chekhov knew about the life of merchant families in Moscow
.
He also wrote a detailed descriptionsof Moscow life
.
Chekhov drew on his own early experiences and those of his cousins, who werewarehousemen, salesmen, seamstresses and of his father's working in Moscow, to write "ThreeYears
.
"Chekhov frequently observed life among his friends and often drew his stories from such real lifeexperiences
.
Having Chekhov as a friend could, however, be hazardous, as a physician and hiswife were to find out
.
Chekhov frequently attended parties given by his doctor friend and thedoctor's dilettante artist wife
.
The wife retained Chekhov's good friend, an artist, as a tutor
.
Duringthe course of the classes, the artist suggested that long trips down the Volga in the summertimewould facilitate the educational process
.
Apparently the educational process took on a dimensionthat went far beyond art
.
Chekhov observed what was going on and in later years based his story,"The Grasshopper," so realistically that the principals recognized each other in the story and weremore than a little furious at him
.
 
10
 Chekhov did not even spare himself 
.
His engagement to Dunya Efros was stormy at best, andserved as the model for the relationship between the hero and Sarah in Chekhov's play,"Ivanov
.
"
11
 Chekhov took every opportunity to observe life in great detail and used the observation as thebasis for many of his stories
.
Chekhov began to observe country life after he graduated frommedical school in 1884
.
Initially the went to visit his brother Ivan, who was a teacher in a parishschool at Voskresensk (now Istra)
.
Chekhov began to spend his summers at a house rented on theKiselyov's estate, Babkino
.
Chekhov loved it in the country and learned a great deal which hewould use in his stories
.
 In the summer of 1884 while at Voskrosensk Chekhov began to acquire clinical experience as theassistant to a Zemstvo physician in the hospital at Chikino, a few miles away, sometimes helpingthe doctor's assistant (Feldscher) with their patients
.
He spent several months replacing theZemstvo doctor at Zvenigorod about twelve miles away
.
The young doctor attended someZemstvo meetings and gained knowledge of conditions in the whole region
.
This gave Chekhov hisinitial exposure to the operation of local government and social services
.
2
 In the winter of 1891-1892 there was a serious famine in many parts of Russia resulting from cropfailure
.
Chekhov thrust himself into the thick of a national crisis working on the local level to easepeasant misery
.
Chekhov worked hard, especially in a district of Nizhegorod Province west of Moscow, where a friend of his was a land captain
.
In February 1892, he visited one of the hardesthit districts of Voronezh Province
.
Chekhov in each case thrust himself into individually backedefforts to aid the poor
.
He and his friend entered into a scheme to buy horses from the farmersand then gave them back later
.
Chekhov saw each group in the country at its best and worstunder pressure
.
He observed the collapse of the institutions of government when they tried tocope with crisis
.
He learned a very great deal in the country
.
 

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