Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Ivan Ivanich Chimsha-Himalaisky and Burkin are hunting in the countryside when a heavy rain begins; they decide to seek shelter at the home of a local landowner, Pavel Konstantinovich Alekhin. Alekhin is young, unmarried, and a hard worker; he is also inclined to neglect his appearance in the absence of guests. In preparation for dinner and an evening of conversation, Alekhin and his guests bathe in the river; the guests notice that the water around their host turns brown as the dirt cascades off his body. The narrator, who is presumably the author, looks on Alekhin with favor, however, as he accentuates the young landowner’s love of hard work and energetic interest in everything around him.
After their ablutions, the three gentlemen settle down with tea as Ivan Ivanich tells Burkin and Alekhin the curious story of his brother’s life. Nikolai Ivanich Chimsha-Himalaisky went to work as a clerk in a large city at the age of nineteen. Both of the brothers grew up in the countryside, but their family estate was sold to settle debts. Nikolai Ivanich has never reconciled himself to life in the city and makes plans to acquire enough money to buy a small estate where he can grow gooseberries, which become a symbol in his mind of gracious living in the countryside. He spends his days dreaming of the future estate: where the main building will be located, ducks swimming in a pond, how he will eat soup made from cabbages that he has grown himself, and where the...
(The entire section is 859 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
“Gooseberries” is one of three linked Chekhov stories treating forms of desire, in which friends on holiday in the country relate remembrances as travels take them to different locations. In “Gooseberries,” the two companions, Burkin, a schoolmaster, and Ivan Ivanovitch, a veterinary surgeon, seek shelter at a welcoming friend’s farm. After the men wash up, they enter the comfortable house of their host, Alehin. There, the veterinarian agrees to tell a story about his younger brother, Nikolay, once an unhappy office-bound civil servant, who for years desires and dreams of buying a country estate near water with a garden, orchard, and, most particularly, gooseberries. Nikolay continues to dream and lives frugally, penny-pinching on food and clothes to save money. Then he marries an elderly rich widow, keeping her short of food while he banks her money in his name. The deprived lady conveniently dies, leaving him with sufficient savings to purchase the country estate.
Continuing his narrative, Ivan visits his now porcine brother on his estate and finds Nikolay a gluttonous, idle, self-satisfied landowner, convinced of salvation by such deeds of charity as treating all peasants’ ailments with castor oil and corrupting them with gallons of vodka on special holidays. Such condescension, Nikolay believes, permit the peasants to love him as their gentleman landowner. A sumptuous meal ends with home-grown gooseberries, which Nikolay excitedly eats...
(The entire section is 398 words.)
The second in a set of three short stories referred to as "The Little Trilogy," "Gooseberries" is a parody set in the Russian countryside in the 1890s. Ivan, the narrator of the tale, and his friend, Burkin, are tired from a long day of hunting in the country when it begins to rain, and the two seek shelter in the home of their friend Pavel, a local landowner. After bathing in the river and settling comfortably in the country estate, the three men eat dinner, and Ivan tells Burkin and Pavel the story of his brother Nikolai's life.
Chekhov juxtaposes the present situation of Ivan telling this story in Pavel's home with the past situation Ivan explains in Nikolai's life. Ivan launches into a monologue in order to explain his own views on land proprietorship. Ivan is clearly moralizing as he tells his story, and he blatantly discounts Nikolai's happiness as simply an illusion. Some critics have argued that "Gooseberries" is a story in which Chekhov advocates Tolstoy's humanistic views and other critics have argued that it is one of the stories in which he rejects them. But Ivan certainly appears to serve as Chekhov's spokesperson. Ivan concludes his story, the three men retire to bed, and the reader is left to interpret the author's message.
(The entire section is 216 words.)
Shelter from the Storm
The story ‘‘Gooseberries’’ begins on a dreary, overcast day as Ivan Ivanich and Bourkin are walking through the countryside. When it starts to rain, Bourkin suggests they go to a nearby friend’s house where they can get shelter from the weather. Upon arriving at the mill owned by Aliokhin, they are greeted warmly and invited into the house.
After the three men enjoy baths, warm clothes, and refreshments, Ivan begins to tell a story about his younger brother, Nicholai. He tells that he and his brother spent their youth in the country after their father died, leaving them only a small estate. As an adult, his brother longed to return to the countryside that he loved. Ivan explains that his brother worked for a government treasury office but became increasingly preoccupied with his dream of buying a modest farm beside a lake or river, where he could live peacefully for the rest of his life. Central to his vision of this farm was the presence of gooseberry bushes, from which he could pick and enjoy his own fruit. For years, he saved and planned, scouring real estate listings to fuel his dream.
As Nicholai became more determined to realize his dream, he became ‘‘terribly stingy,’’ according to Ivan. When Ivan would give him money for a short vacation, Nicholai would put the money in savings instead. When he...
(The entire section is 691 words.)