Anton Chekhov

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What is the story "Joy" by Anton Chekhov about?

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The story reminds us of the bewildering variety of ways in which human beings can experience joy. The protagonist, Mitya Kuldarov, is overjoyed to read about his drunken exploits in a local newspaper. He's positively tickled pink at the imminent prospect of becoming a local celebrity. As is so often the case with Chekhov, there's an element of satire here. A common theme of both his plays and short stories is the sometimes stultifying provinciality of Russian life. And this theme is amply illustrated by Mitya's unaccountable joy at the reporting of his booze-fueled antics. Mitya clearly has very narrow cultural horizons if he thinks that becoming a big deal in town due to an act of public drunkenness will somehow make him happy. Mercifully, his thoroughly disgusted and ashamed family are on hand to provide some much-needed perspective on this unfortunate turn of events.

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"Joy" tells the story of a young clerk called Mitya Kuldarov who experiences complete joy when he is mentioned in a local newspaper. The article details an event in which Kuldarov and a friend were returning from a beerhouse when the former slipped and fell under a horse. Kuldarov received a blow to the back of his head which knocked him unconscious but he made a full recovery after receiving some medical care at the local police station.

This incident was reported in full in the newspaper and Kuldarov takes it to show his family. He is overjoyed at being in the newspaper, believing that the article will bring him fame and attention:

"How happy I am! Oh, Lord! You know it's only celebrated people whose names are published in the papers, and now they have gone and published mine!" 

In contrast, Kuldarov's parents do not feel joy when they read about his drunken antics. In fact, they feel shame, the very opposite of joy. But Kuldarov is disinterested and the story ends with him leaving the house so that he can show the article to all of his friends.

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"Joy" is an excellent short story focusing on the very different responses to the indiscretion of the central protagonist. The title is extremely ironic, as the "joy" experienced by Mitya Kuldarov is contrasted strongly with the fear, terror and shame experienced by his parents as they realise why their son is so happy. What is viewed with such happiness by their son is a cause of deep shame and concern for themselves, as shown by the following quote that comes after Mitya has told them his name has been published in the newspaper like other "celebrated people":

The papa turned pale. The mamma glanced at the holy image and crossed herself.

The irony of the title is fully explained when Mitya reads out how he managed to become one of those "celebrated people" with their names in the newspaper: he became so drunk he collapsed in a street and got run over by a sledge. Mitya fails to see that this mention in a newspaper is actually one that shames him and paints him as a ridiculous, debauched figure, and the story ends with him leaving his parents house, "joyful and triumphant," to tell their neighbours his good news. He fails to understand that what to him is an achievement is viewed very differently by his family.

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What is the Chekhov story "Joy" about?

“Joy” is the story of a young man who got drunk, slipped and fell under a horse, and got his name in the paper for it.

The story is plainly satirical and actually pretty humorous.  The young man runs home and wakes his family up, thrilled to share his good news.  He brandishes a paper and talks about what a neat thing newspapers are.

"It's because I am so delighted, Mamma! Do you know, now all Russia knows of me! All Russia! …”

It turns out he is delighted just to have his name in the paper, even though the story reveals him to be a bumbling idiot.  His parents placate him, thus satirizing them as well.  They will praise anything he does, including getting his name in the paper for being an idiot.

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