How does "The Lottery Ticket" by Anton Checkov relate to the real world?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Chekhov's 'The Lottery Ticket' explores all the real world challenges of being a ticket winner. Both Ivan and Masha's paranoid fears are indicative of the kind experienced by individuals suddenly bequeathed with unexpected wealth. Interestingly, the couple hasn't even won the lottery. Yet, the ugliness of their private thoughts gives us a clear indication of how conflict would arise between the two of them if they had won. In his short story, Chekhov paints a convincing portrait of how human greed, selfishness, and suspicion can become the hallmarks of the human experience in the event of an unexpected windfall.

When Ivan and Masha first discuss what their first inclinations would be if they hold the winning ticket, their conversation is mild and friendly. Both seem to agree on the 'right' course of sensible actions to take in the event of such a windfall. However, Chekhov soon lets us in on the private thoughts of his characters. When Ivan admits that he would like to go abroad if they ever came into such money, Masha agrees with him.

However, this is where their thoughts part ways. Ivan starts to think about how bothersome it would really be to go traveling with his wife. He knows that she would never want to spend any amount of money on the kind of pleasures that he would really enjoy. He thinks that she's a real tightwad when it comes to spending money anyway.

Additionally, he would have to put up with her complaining ways, and worse, he would have to be at her beck and call at all times. In other words, Ivan doesn't think his wife would be any fun on a holiday. Eventually, his thoughts turn onto darker avenues. He imagines that Masha would even begrudge him the use of any money she won. He tells himself that her despicable relations would be her first priority, and Masha would leave him to exist on perhaps, a hundred rubles, if he was lucky.

At the same time, Masha is indulging her own negative thoughts about her husband's inadequacies. She thinks Ivan would be the first to grab her winnings if he could. Both soon start to look at the other with fear, suspicion, and hatred. It is evident that the thought of winning brings up every latent distrustful inclination each has towards the other.

Chekhov's short story relates to the real-world consequences on family dynamics after unexpected wealth is suddenly thrust on those who are least prepared for it. Here are a couple of real-world challenges many winners have already experienced:

1)Family dynamics will likely not improve. In fact, it may get worse. Suddenly, relatives and so-called long lost friends will call, expecting favors and special 'loans.' Couples may also quarrel because of irreconcilable differences regarding the way the millions of dollars should be spent. Our glimpse into Ivan and Masha's private thoughts definitely alerts us to the possibility of such tension within the family structure in the event of such a windfall.

2)At the end of the story, Ivan finds himself in a bad mood. His negative thoughts have soured him to the possibility of any happiness in the event of a big win. Suddenly, he finds himself upset at his lot in life, at his wife's housekeeping skills, and at the apparent uselessness of the dinner he just ate.

His displaced anger is telling: in actuality, Ivan is frustrated at the apparent futility of hoping for any win. After all, he would then have to contend with grasping relatives and his own grasping wife. What would be the use of winning if one has to suffer such grief? Here, read about a man who committed suicide despite his best efforts at helping relatives and friends after his lottery win. (Scroll down for the story).

If you go to the links listed below, you can also read about other real-world consequences experienced by actual lottery winners. After reading, you will see that Chekhov's skillful portrayal of Ivan and Masha's thought lives mirror real-world scenarios. Hope this helps!

A treasury of terribly sad stories of lotto winners.

A winner's tale.

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