Anton Chekhov

Start Free Trial

In "A Woman without Prejudice," what do you learn about prejudice?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Anton Chekhov's story "A Woman without Prejudice," we learn that one of the worst types of prejudice we can have is prejudice against ourselves.

Maxim Kuzmich Salyutov is a fine, strong man, and he is in love with Elena Gavrilovna, so much so that he becomes a pale, trembling fellow when he finally declares his love for her. Maxim, though, has a secret, and he is horribly ashamed of it. He fears that if Elena finds out, she will slap his face and leave him forever. He knows that he should tell her this secret, but he cannot work up the courage. He waits and waits some more.

Pretty soon, the young couple marries. On their wedding night, Maxim finally decides that he must explain. He must tell Elena about his past once and for all. He begins by explaining that his family was very poor and that, as a boy, he sold fruit to help make ends meet. Then he reveals what he believes is the worst part of all: for twenty years, Maxim was a circus clown.

Maxim covers his face, expecting Elena to slap him. But Elena laughs. Her laughter is not mocking but delighted. She loves the idea that her husband was once a circus clown, and she makes him perform some of his tricks. She is thrilled and cheers and claps at his performance.

Indeed, Maxim is expecting prejudice from Elena, but he does not find it. She loves him for who he is, and she loves his past as well. The prejudice in this story is to be found in Maxim himself, for he has long been ashamed of his past for no reason at all. Being a circus clown, he discovers, is actually a very good thing.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team