What language techniques has the author used in "A Misfortune"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his psychologically explorative story, "A Misfortune," Anton Chekhov examines a woman's inner conflict between social convention and her wanton lust. In so doing, Chekhov employs several literary techniques:

1. Dramatic Visualization ["mimetically rendering gestures and dialogue to make a scene more visual or imaginatively present to an audience."]

Throughout his narrative, Chekhov creates an imitative representation of human dialogue and behavior. Consider, for instance this scene in Part 2:

"Don't be angry; let us be friends," she said affectionately. "Agreed?  Here's my hand."

Ilyin took her plump little hand in both of his, squeezed it, and slowly raised it to his lips.

"I am not a schoolboy," he muttered.  "I am not in the least tempted by friendship with the woman I love."

"Enough, enough!  It's settle and done with. We have reched the seat; let us sit down."

2. Epiphany [a sudden insight or revelation by a main character]

In Part 10 Sofya Petrovna finally has an insight:

Only now, sitting at the piano, she recognized full for the first that this unhappy man was in deadly earnest, that his soul was sick....

3. Figurative Language [language that employs figures of speech such as similes and metaphors]

Chekhov makes use of figurative language, especially similes to create imaginative and effective descriptions. In the Part 7, the author describes the psychological state of Sofya Petrovna,

...there was a tangle within her which it was as difficult to unravel as to count a flock of sparrows rapidly flying by.

4. Foreshadowing [suggestions or hints of things to come]

In Part 4 Ilyin tells Sofya Petrovna that she has not given him a direct answer regarding their relationship.  He terms her actions "Strange indecision!...either you are playing with me, or else..."

This "indecision" suggests that Sofya may give in to her egoism and lust.

5. Imagery [language that evokes sensual perception]

Chekhov uses visual and auditory imagery in his narrative. Here are two examples:

The clouds stood motionless, as though they had caught in the tops of the tall old pine-trees. It was still and sultry. (1)

They heard the hoarse, discordant whistle of the train.  This cold, irrelevant sound from the everyday world of prose made Sofya Petrovna rouse herself. (6)

6. Hyperbole [obvious exaggeration]

An obvious exaggeration occurs in Part 5 as Ilyin passionately declares his love to Sofya:

...I've given up my work and all who are dear to me; I've forgotten my God!....

7. Pathetic Fallacy [the use of nature to reflect a character's mood]

Using nature to describe the psychological conflict within Sofya Petrovna in Part 9, the author writes,

Behind the blind a bumble-bee was beating itself against the window-pane and buzzing.

8.  Stream of Consciousness [writing that reflects the inner workings of a character's mind, recording his/her thoughts as quickly as they come]

Throughout the narrative, the inner workings of Sofa Petrovna are illustrated through the use of internal monologue.  One example comes at the end of Part 9, in a long paragraph that begins,

Making up her mind to go at all costs, she felt that she was out of danger....she allowed herself to think about it all, feeling that however much she thought, however much she dreamed....