What is "Joy" by Anton Chekhov all about?

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

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"Joy" is an excellent short story focusing on the very different responses to the indiscretion of the central protagonist. The title is extremely ironic, as the "joy" experienced by Mitya Kuldarov is contrasted strongly with the fear, terror and shame experienced by his parents as they realise why their son is so happy. What is viewed with such happiness by their son is a cause of deep shame and concern for themselves, as shown by the following quote that comes after Mitya has told them his name has been published in the newspaper like other "celebrated people":

The papa turned pale. The mamma glanced at the holy image and crossed herself.

The irony of the title is fully explained when Mitya reads out how he managed to become one of those "celebrated people" with their names in the newspaper: he became so drunk he collapsed in a street and got run over by a sledge. Mitya fails to see that this mention in a newspaper is actually one that shames him and paints him as a ridiculous, debauched figure, and the story ends with him leaving his parents house, "joyful and triumphant," to tell their neighbours his good news. He fails to understand that what to him is an achievement is viewed very differently by his family.



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