In "The Problem," by Anton Checkhov, what is considered the "single effect"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The theory concerning the "single effect" comes from Edgar Allen Poe and his criticism on short stories. He famously said of the short fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne that a good short story achieved its unity by achieving a single emotional effect on a reader. If we think about this theory in relation to this excellent short story by Anton Chekov, it appears that the single emotional effect on the reader is the sense of wry despair as we read about the complete failure of Sasha's family to do anything about giving him the guidance that he needs and likewise Sasha's own inability to recognises the immorality of his actions. Note how when the family has decided to let him off to his crime, he goes on to show how dissolute and immoral he is yet again:

Taking a sledge, Sasha grew calmer, and felt a rush of joy within him again. The "rights of youth" of which kind-hearted Ivan Markovitch had spoken at the family council woke up and asserted themselves. Sasha pictured the drinking party before him, and, among the botles, the women, and his friends, the thought flashed through his mind:

"Now I see that I am a criminal; yes, I am a criminal."

The real "problem" of the story is shown to be the way that Sasha's family have not brought him up to have a firm moral base and their desire to save their family name over letting Sasha face the consequences of his actions.

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