Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Kazakov accomplishes his task and advances his main theme through an accomplished style and technique that have rendered him one of the best short-story writers in Russian literature. He begins his story with, “I took the pail to get water from the spring. I was happy that night because she was coming on the night boat.” He then proceeds, step by step, through the important events of the plot: descending to the river dock, meeting his friend, bringing her back to the hut, and showing her around, while all the time worrying whether he could convince her to stay with him. When it finally is clear that she will stay, the reader feels the satisfaction of a completed story. At the same time, instead of telling everything to the last detail, he allows readers to draw some conclusions on their own.

Sometimes it seems that not much is happening. In this sense, Kazakov often has been compared with the greatest Russian storyteller, Anton Chekhov, who has also been criticized for the fact that not much happens in his stories and plays. The author believes, however, that telling everything explicitly is not necessary. In the same way, it is unnecessary that the story have a clear-cut ending—a hint is enough. Thus, Kazakov does not say that she is staying, he only shows a tug come and leave again without her.

Kazakov is especially adept at creating characters. Slowly and unobtrusively, in an almost impressionistic manner, he completes the portraits. The narrator emerges as a taciturn but strong man, somewhat sentimental and romantic, showing weaknesses but with enough hope to carry him through perhaps the greatest challenge of his life. His friend also is shown as a strong person, “of the sea,” as he characterizes her, with a husky voice and a mind of her own. The blending of the characters with their environment is perhaps the strongest artistic point of the story. The two characters emerge at the end as a part of nature, which may have been Kazakov’s main goal in writing this story.