Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Trying to create a life is the central theme of “The Beginning of an Idea.” Having reached a point at which she feels she must make a radical change, Eva Lindberg imagines beginning her own new life by creating an imaginary life of Anton Chekhov. She has the “beginning of an idea” in the fictional Chekhov story about a poor boy who mistakenly eats oyster shells and the end of an idea in the historical fact that Chekhov’s body was carried to Moscow in an oyster cart. It is the symbolic symmetry of Chekhov’s life that fascinates Eva; she even imagines that after the coffin is taken away for burial, some of the oysters in the cart are delivered to the same restaurant where the child Chekhov had eaten shells.

Actual lives do not have the same symbolic symmetry as imagined lives. Eva has asked her lover for a life and he offers her yellow roses instead. She realizes that what she yearns for is her own life, not his. She has not built a life with her lover, but she thinks she will now build something out of the opening sentences of her imagined book about Chekhov. She has a romantic idea that she can go away, be alone, and somehow be able not only to imagine a life of Chekhov but also to create that life and simultaneously create her own life by giving it meaning.

However, it is one thing to “try to write” and another to actually write; one either does it or one does not. Although Eva has the symmetrical beginning and end of her...

(The entire section is 423 words.)