Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Chekhov creates unity in the story through mood and atmosphere. The mood and atmosphere are created by his impressionistic method of writing, which includes not only the description of nature but also the portrayal of his characters. It was Leo Tolstoy who first spoke about Chekhov’s impressionism. Chekhov’s portrayals of nature, characters, and events are like patches of color that, in the distance, result in a remarkable picture of real life. In a letter to his brother, Chekhov wrote: “In description of nature one should seize upon minutiae, grouping them so that when, having read the passage, you close your eyes, a picture is formed. . . . In the area of mental states there are also particulars. May God save you from generalities.” As one can see, nature plays an important part in the story. It creates the atmosphere, it supports the human actions. The sky, the stars, the river, the rhythms, the sounds, the rocket, the lights—everything works to create the poetic substance of the story, revealing its meaning. In order to show that the Easter ceremonies are both joyful and, at the same time, restless and mystical, they are observed at the beginning from the other side of the river, then from the ferry, then closer and closer, outside and inside the church. The symbol of the gibbet-like ferry with the reclining figure of Ieronim represents grief and sorrow. The endless stream of people going in and out of the church reminds one of the currents of water.

Chekhov relates “Easter Eve” in the first-person singular. He chooses the anonymous narrator to combine the thrill of joy from the ceremony with the feeling of agitation and restlessness, to infuse sincerity and lyricism into the story, to bring the pitch of the story down, closer to the reader.