Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

To understand the underlying ideas and significance of this sketch, one should consider the context in which this story appears. The book is a collection of landscape descriptions and character portraits based on chance encounters with peasants of all sorts and conditions. A few members of the gentry also appear occasionally but always in relation to the peasants, as in “The Bailiff,” in which the narrator recounts an unpleasant and disquieting visit with an acquaintance who embodies the worst qualities of a cruel, self-indulgent landlord. It is perhaps in that story that Turgenev’s opposition to serfdom is most strongly indicated. He never expresses this opposition directly, but the theme is perfectly clear, especially if one views the sketches as parts of a whole. Taken separately, the message in each sketch is presented so subtly that it almost disappears in the wealth of detailed portraiture and description, but even in the seemingly simple and straightforward account of a night spent observing five poor, ignorant, superstitious children, the author’s ideas about his subjects are strongly implied. There is, however, a universality about the hunter’s experience and the boys he describes that raises the sketch far above a merely sociological discussion.

The author’s love of his native land is much more explicit, as be describes the countryside, the weather, and the various settings in which the hunter finds himself, such as a cottage, an...

(The entire section is 462 words.)