Anton Chekov published his short story "Ward No. 6" in 1892. The story depicts a philosophical struggle within Dr. Rabin over institutionalized cruelty. The author uses narrative techniques such as perspective, setting, and irony. Chekov writes primarily in the third-person perspective. Occasionally the narration addresses the reader. In this way, Chekov invites us to take a closer look at the ugliness of Ward No. 6.
There is significant detail in the descriptions. He begins by leading the reader to the asylum: "If you are not afraid of being stung by the nettles, come by the narrow footpath that leads to the lodge, and let us see what is going on inside." The setting is not pretty; it has oppressive architecture, a nasty smell that permeates the building, and a violent caretaker named Nikita. Chekov individually characterizes each member of Ward No. 6. Their plights are unique and horrible. The choice of perspective closes the distance between readers and the suffering of the patients.
One of the patients, Ivan Dmitritch Gromov, begins to interest Dr. Rabin and facilitates his ironic tragedy. In the past, Rabin sought to improve the asylum, but when his efforts failed, he lost hope. Rabin became idle, taking comfort in reading and philosophical discussions. In response to that attitude, Gromov criticizes the doctor for rationalizing cruelty with intellectualism. After losing his position at the asylum, Rabin sinks into nihilism, then is forced to become a patient.
Irony comes in the form of upsetting expectations. In the pursuit of intellectual meaning, Dr. Rabin descends into fatalism. The doctor who starts out trying to improve his asylum finds himself trapped behind its walls. Dr. Rabin has a revelation while in captivity, but the knowledge can no longer help him, as he finds himself without power. Chekov crafts the perspective to draw a reader in and provide a delivery mechanism for the story. The setting illustrates the ghastly conditions of the asylum, and Dr. Rabin's fate demonstrates the severe degree to which his intellectual rationalization is flawed.