"Gooseberries" is a slow-moving, seemingly plotless story devoid of action. The conflict appears only in Ivan's mind, not in the story itself, and Burkin, Pavel, and even Ivan himself remain passive characters throughout the tale, as Ivan delivers his moralistic speech on the evils of land proprietorship. Chekhov's characters are often passive, introspective people who live quiet and discontented lives. Nikolai seemingly represents the Chekhovian character who appears to be self-centered yet is misunderstood by others, and Ivan seemingly represents the melancholy and desperate man searching for the meaning of true happiness.
Ivan is a veterinary surgeon, a medical man like Chekhov himself, and his brother Nikolai is a retired landowner. Nikolai is revealed to readers only through Ivan who tells the story of how Nikolai spent his life pursuing his dream of owning a country estate and growing gooseberries. Nikolai apparently grew up in the country but went to work in the city when his family had to sell their estate to pay their debts. But Nikolai never stopped longing for the country, and he invested all his time and energy and into making his dream of country life a reality.
According to Ivan, Nikolai's life has been a waste and his dream nothing but an escape from reality. Ivan believes that instead of retreating to the peace and quiet of the country, one should actively work for the betterment of society. To illustrate the error in Nikolai's ways, Ivan relates how his brother became stingy and selfish and how he married an elderly rich widow for money then deprived her of food and comfort. When the woman dies, Nikolai is able to buy three hundred acres of land and settle into the country life he always dreamed of.
It appears that Nikolai certainly is a selfish and miserly man who, unlike Tolstoy, and Chekhov during a large part of his life, has little concern for improving the lives of the peasants. Ivan tells how his brother treats the peasants badly and how he believes that most of them are not yet ready for education and that corporal punishment for these people is...
(The entire section is 862 words.)