In Anton Chekhov's "Gooseberries," what point of view do we find in the first paragraph? How long does this last? When does a different point of view take over? In paragraph 9, how does the...
In Anton Chekhov's "Gooseberries," what point of view do we find in the first paragraph? How long does this last? When does a different point of view take over? In paragraph 9, how does the word apparently enforce a point of view? In paragraph 15, can you feel the point of view shifting? Can the story accommodate the change? Name the different points of view.
In the first paragraph, we are offered the point-of-view of a seemingly omniscient but, in fact, limited omniscient narrator. If point-of-view can be visualized as the perspective of someone holding a movie camera and shooting a scene, this shows a shot of two men walking through the countryside as if the camera were behind them, seeing what they see as they walk: the windmills of a village, meadows, willows, telegraph poles, a train in the distance. It appears omniscient because we get what seem to be the thoughts of the characters, which, if this were a movie, we might imagine as a voice-over: they are both tired of walking and at the same time find the countryside grand and beautiful. They are not differentiated at this point: they have the same thoughts and reactions, which might lead us to believe that, after all, the narrator is limited omniscient, and does not know everything: is he summarizing the conversation he is overhearing? Is he guessing at what they are thinking? This sets up the theme of isolation, that we really do not know what others are thinking.
In paragraph 9, Aliokhin, their host, is "apparently very pleased" to see the two men, the word "apparently" pointing to the slippage between appearance and reality, suggesting that beneath a surface joviality, he may not be pleased to see them. This word reinforces the limited omniscient point-of-view as the narrator seems unsure of what Aliokhin is thinking.
Paragraph 15 again marks a shift, as Ivanich and Bourkin are differentiated as characters for the first time, their thoughts separated. It is apparently Ivanich alone at this point looking down at Aliokhin's head as he bathes. From this point on, Bourkin and Ivanich are not yoked. Ivanich swims with glee as Bourkin looks on: we have two different camera angles. Now, suddenly, alliances shift: Bourkin and Aliokhin are grouped together on the shore, dressed and waiting impatiently for Ivanich to finish swimming. This shift is important, as throughout the rest of the story, except for the moment when both Ivanich and Bourkins are grouped in silk dressing gowns and warm slippers, lounging in chairs, the two will be separated. Both Bourkin and Aliokhin will be disappointed in Ivanich's tale. The story can accommodate the change, at it underscores the isolation of the characters that in turn underscores the point of the story-within-a-story that people are too willing to isolate themselves from others.
In summary, the different points of view in the story include that of the limited omniscient narrator, who with his camera is recording the scene, but guessing at the thoughts of the characters; second, the generic point-of-view of Ivanich and Bourkin as a unit; third, the point-of-view of Ivanich as he tells his story; and then the collective point-of-view of Bourkin and Aliokhin as they react: "Ivanich's story had satisfied neither. ... it was tedious to hear a miserable story ... they had a longing to hear and to speak of charming people ..." Here, to complicate matters, Bourkin and Aliokhin take on the perspective of the brother Ivanich is critiquing, as they too want to insulate themselves from the unpleasant side of life. The people in the "frames"—the people in the pictures hanging on the walls, who symbolize the audience, that is, us, the readers, are also implied to share the perspective of Bourkin and Aliokhin, people "who sat and had their tea here," and lived pleasantly. Bourkin and Aliokhin like the life here, warm and with a pretty servant, "much better than any story." The narrator thus assumes the reader will find the story as unpleasant as Bourkin and Aliokhin do, as we also do not want to be reminded of suffering.
Bourkin and Aliokhin are also presented as having different points of view from one another as well as from Ivanich: "they all three sat in different corners of the drawing room and were silent."
Aliokhin wishes to go to bed, but apparently does not get much company or conversation, as he doesn't want to miss anything and likes the variety their conversation brings. Now we know that he is more than "apparently" glad for their company.
At the end we see the three isolated characters heading into their own rooms, Ivanich and Bourkin now each with their own thoughts.