In "A Problem," compare and contrast the characters of Ivan Markovitch and the Colonel using details from the story.

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In "A Problem," Anton Chekhov depicts a familial dispute centered around Sasha Uskov, who (to quote the story itself) "had cashed at one of the banks a false promissory note" (as translated by Constance Garnett). The question at the center of this dispute is whether they ought to bail Sasha...

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In "A Problem," Anton Chekhov depicts a familial dispute centered around Sasha Uskov, who (to quote the story itself) "had cashed at one of the banks a false promissory note" (as translated by Constance Garnett). The question at the center of this dispute is whether they ought to bail Sasha out or allow him to suffer the consequences of his misconduct. What is particularly interesting, as far as this story is concerned, is the terms in which Chekhov frames this dispute. As the story puts it, this is a question which concerns

...whether they should pay the money and save the family honour, or wash their hands of it and leave the case to go for trial.

What's important about this specific framing is the way in which the Colonel himself describes it as a false dilemma. As the Colonel understands it, there is nothing honorable about shielding relatives from the consequences of their own misconduct. He cites his experience in the army to support his viewpoint. In this dispute, the Colonel emerges as a legalist and disciplinarian; his mindset is reflected in his reading of the situation.

Ivan Markovitch, on the other hand, has a very different personality. He is described, within the narrative itself, as "kind-hearted" and seems to be far more forgiving of Sasha's perspective, and he even normalizes the young man's behavior. Thus, the text states,

He began with saying that youth has its rights and its peculiar temptations. Which of us has not been young, and who has not been led astray? To say nothing of ordinary mortals, even great men have not escaped errors and mistakes in their youth.

Ivan believes that Sasha's misconduct should be met with compassion rather than condemnation. The Colonel, on the other hand, is entirely uncompromising on the matter and has a significantly less generous appraisal of Sasha's character:

You know he would not give up leading a dissipated life, squandering money, making debts, going to our tailors and ordering suits in our names! Can you guarantee that this will be his last prank? As far as I am concerned, I have no faith whatever in his reforming!

One might call Ivan more empathetic of Sasha's own perspective, but there is also a pliability in his character which stands in sharp contrast to the Colonel's sternness. This emerges at the end of the story, after the dispute has been ended in Ivan's and Sasha's favor, when Sasha proceeds to bully and threaten Ivan into giving him more money.

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The Colonel and Ivan Markovitch have opposite ideas about how to handle young Sasha, who has cashed a promissory note—what we might today call a check—for 1,500 rubles, without having the money to cover it. The note is almost due, and the family has to decide what to do. They can pay the note and hush up the whole affair, or they can refuse to pay and let Sasha bear the full weight of the law and public exposure.

With his military background, the Colonel believes in law, honor, and order. He says,

whatever may be the motives for screening a scoundrel, whoever he may be, and helping him to escape punishment, it is contrary to law and unworthy of a gentleman. It's not saving the family honour; it's civic cowardice!

The Colonel is a vehement and emotional speaker. His dialogue is punctuated with many exclamation points, and he is called "the emphatic Colonel."

However, we learn that Markovitch, who wants to pay the debt, has a very different temperament:

The maternal uncle, kind-hearted Ivan Markovitch, spoke smoothly, softly, and with a tremor in his voice.

Markovitch suavely defends his nephew. If the colonel is in favor of logos, or the logic of strict discipline and learning a lesson, Markovitch support pathos, or sympathy, and compassion for Sasha. He states,

Even if he were guilty, anyway he deserved indulgence and the sympathy of all compassionate souls. He ought, of course, to be punished, but he was punished as it was by his conscience and the agonies he was enduring now while awaiting the sentence of his relations. The comparison with the army made by the Colonel was delightful, and did credit to his lofty intelligence; his appeal to their feeling of public duty spoke for the chivalry of his soul, but they must not forget that in each individual the citizen is closely linked with the Christian. . .

We can see from the passage above that Markovitch knows how to flatter: he flatters the Colonel by praising his military comparison and great intelligence.

When the Colonel argues back in his "metallic" voice, Ivan Markovitch "[begins] talking blandly and suavely again."

Markovitch's smooth and eloquent arguing persuades the family to pay Sasha's debt. Though he wins the argument, he also shows himself to have a weak personality when he allows Sasha to do what Sasha knows is evil and bully him into giving him another hundred rubles so he can go to a party. The story shows that the smoothest speaker may have the weaker will and the weaker argument.

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Unfortunately you asked two questions, and according to enotes regulations you are only allowed to ask one. I have therefore edited your question accordingly.

In this classic short story family members have convened to talk about the fate of Sasha Uskov, who has presented a false promisory note at the bank. The family needs to decide whethere to bail him out or not. From the beginning, Ivan Markovitch, Sasha's uncle, is presented as "kind-hearted" and taking the side of Sasha. Note how he persuades the rest of the family to side with him:

The maternal uncle, kind-hearted Ivan Markovitch, spoke smoothly, softly, and with a tremor in his voice. He began with saying that youth has its rights and its peculiar temptations... If Sasha's error bordered upon crime, they must remember that Sasha had received practically no education; he had been expelled from the high school in the fifth class; he had lost his parents in early childhood, and so had been left at the tenderest age without guidance and good, benevolent influences.

Ivan Markovitch is thus characterised as a very understanding, kind and gentle man who wants the family to help Sasha and save the family honour.

On the other hand, the Colonel, argues that saving Sasha would be an "unpardonable mistake." Note how he is presented through his arguments about what they should do:

"That's what I say: whatever may be the motives for screening a scoundrel, whoever he may be, and helping him to escape punishment, it is contrary to law and unworthy of a gentleman. It's not saving the family honour, it's civic cowardice!"

Thus whilst the Colonel believes in family honour, he also takes a very tough line with Sasha, arguing that bailing him out would be illegal and not the behaviour of a gentleman. He is presented as unsympathetic and a disciplinarian who believes that rules should be followed rigidly with no mercy shown.

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