Anton Chekhov

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

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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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