“Home” is a short story by Anton Chekhov in which a father tries to convince his young son to quit smoking.
- Yevgeny Petrovitch Bykovsky is a prosecutor and the single father of a seven-year-old boy named Seryozha.
- Yevgeny's housekeeper informs him that she caught Seryhoza smoking.
- Yevgeny immediately begins forming ideas on how to convince Seryhoza to stop smoking.
- When logical arguments and a withdrawal of affection fail, Yevgeny decides to tell his son a bedtime story about a prince whose kingdom fell to ruin as a result of his smoking.
- Seryhoza is deeply affected by the story and he resolves to stop smoking.
Last Updated on May 20, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 565
Author and playwright Anton Chekov (1860-1904) began freelancing as a journalist and writer of short fiction for additional income while completing medical school. As his short stories solidified his position as an emerging new talent, he focused less on practicing medicine and more on his writing career. A year after...
(The entire section contains 565 words.)
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Author and playwright Anton Chekov (1860-1904) began freelancing as a journalist and writer of short fiction for additional income while completing medical school. As his short stories solidified his position as an emerging new talent, he focused less on practicing medicine and more on his writing career. A year after “Home” was published in 1887, Chekov won the coveted Pushkin Prize for his collection At Dusk (1888).
Chekov’s short stories often examine the human condition through realistic portrayals of everyday life. “Home” is set in a Russian household at the end of the 19th century and explores the relationship between a father and son. The story centers on a scene in which the narrator, Yevgeny, must convince his only son Seryozha of the dangers of smoking.
At the beginning of the story, Yevgeny comes home from his job as a circuit court prosecutor. His seven-year-old son’s governess informs him that she has caught Seryozha smoking. When she tried to confront Seryozha about his newfound habit, he petulantly ignored her, singing loudly to drown out her reprimands.
Yevgeny begins to assemble facts, as if preparing for a case: How old is his son? Where does he get the tobacco? When Yevgeny learns that Seryozha has been taking the tobacco from his study, he asks the governess to bring Seryozha to him so that father and son can talk. While waiting, Yevgeny weighs the situation, at first amused by the image of his young son with a cigar in mouth. However, he becomes horrified at the thought of his son being expelled from school for smoking. He reflects on his own classmates who were expelled from school for smoking, and how their lives were considerably worse as a result. As a smoker himself, Yevgeny is unable to condemn their actions, suggesting that their punishment did not fit the crime they committed. He enjoys the comfortable, meandering nature of his thoughts at home, which is unlike the rigid and austere way of thinking required at his work.
When Seryozha arrives, Yevgeny has not yet come to a solid conclusion about how he will address his son’s behavior. First, he tries to withdraw affection from Seryozha, but his obvious love for his son quickly undermines the ruse. Then, he tries to reason with Seryozha by explaining the concept of property ownership, the immorality of stealing, and the deadly consequences of smoking. Because Seryozha is only seven, he is distracted throughout their conversation, prompting Yevgeny to reflect on the ways in which a child’s thoughts must be different from his own. Yevgeny realizes that he has no idea how to discourage his son from the newfound vice, as he has exhausted all of the logical arguments at his disposal and Seryozha clearly does not understand the gravity of Yevgeny’s concern. He tells Seryozha a bedtime story instead.
Yevgeny tells his son a short story about an emperor and his son, describing in particular the beauty of the palace’s gardens. The emperor’s son takes up smoking as a boy and dies from consumption. The kingdom is left in ruins because there is no heir to the throne. The emperor is killed, the garden is destroyed, and the entire kingdom collapses—all as a result of the son’s poor decision-making. The end of this story resonates deeply with Seryozha, who solemnly resolves to stop smoking.