Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The setting for the entire story is the drawing room of Olga Ivanovna Irnina, a woman who is estranged from her husband and is currently involved with Nikolay Ilyich Belyaev. The story opens with a brief description of Belyaev: He is a “well-fed,” “pink young man of about thirty-two” years of age. He has three principal activities in life: He is a “St. Petersburg landlord,” he is “very fond of the race-course,” and he has a “liaison” with Olga.
This opening establishes that, as a landlord, Belyaev lives from the labor of others; that, as a racing addict, he has not closed the gap between his mental and his chronological age; and that, as a paramour, he prefers a liaison with Olga to marriage.
The epithets “well-fed” and “pink” applied to Belyaev are especially unflattering inasmuch as in Anton Chekhov’s works the color pink, when referring to a man, suggests the image of a soft, pampered, and effeminate individual, although the expression “well-fed” is an unmistakable sign of pettiness and vulgarity or, more precisely, what the Russians call poshlost.
The narrator observes that Belyaev looks on his liaison with Olga as “a long and tedious romance” that he has “spun out,” adding parenthetically that this is Belyaev’s “own phrase.” Here a more serious flaw in Belyaev’s character is exposed: He has been insincere about the nature of his relationship with Olga. Moreover, as the...
(The entire section is 1697 words.)
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