What are Chekhov's contributions to the short story form?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Anton Chekov was trained as doctor, but suffered from tuberculosis, which at the time was an incurable disease. Because he experienced success as a short story writer and playwright, he rarely practiced medicine.

Chekov's first group of writings was published in 1886. His first play was staged in the year following. Towards the end of the 1800s, Chekov began working with producer/actor/director Constantin 
Stanislavski, and this professional collaboration lasted until Chekov's death in 1904.

In terms of the short story, Chekov is seen as greatly responsible for the form of the modern short story form that reflects the following characteristics:

  • mood and symbolism are more important to the story than the development of the plot (known as the "plotless" story).
  • impressions and ideas are thematically arranged for effect, rather than relying on climax and resolution.
  • Much of Chekov's attention was directed to those who were landowners or members of the professionally-centered middle class.

Using themes relating to the everyday life of the landed gentry and professional middle class, Chekhov portrayed the pathos of life in Russia before the 1905 revolution: the futile, boring, and lonely lives of people unable to communicate with one another...

...his stories, are studies of the spiritual failure of characters in an aristocratic society that is disintegrating...

Furthermore:

Chekhov combined a keen use of brevity—gleaned from the stories of Guy de Maupassant—with a poetic and symbolic sensibility, culminating in new casts of short fiction, specifically the plotless story.

Chekov was also influenced by Tolstoy, telling satirical stories from the viewpoint of children.

Chekov put a new spin on the traditional short story format, creating his own style.

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