Boys by Chekhov #DealMeIn2018

I’m really getting a taste for Chekhov. I’m glad I chose him to represent clubs in the Deal Me In short story reading challenge.

I’ve been reading stories specifically from a collection called THE COOK’S WEDDING & OTHER STORIES, and I seem to have chosen extremely well. Some of the stories have been ghastly, but that’s because they feel so true. This one is also true, but, like some of his other stories, whether it’s ghastly or not depends on how you look at it.


by Anton Chekhov

The son of the house comes home for Christmas vacation, bringing a school friend with him. The son of the house is tall, open, and fair; the friend is slight, taciturn, and dark. Can we say “shadow character“?

I don’t know how old these boys are, but I suspect they’re fairly young, since they expect to hunt tigers in America. Yes, they plan to use this holiday as a jumping off point for running away to the California gold (and tiger) fields. The son of the house’s sisters overhear the plan and keep it secret, since they expect their brother to bring them some gold and ivory when he comes back.

Son of the house has second thoughts, but his friend bucks him up and they do run away. They’re brought back, the fair boy repentant, the dark one still fully identified with his Romantic persona.

Seems like a pretty straightforward schoolboy tale. And yet. And yet. Is the fair boy to be admired for considering the reality of his mamma’s feelings or despised for his vacillation? Is the dark boy to be deplored for his determination to violate the courtesy expected of a guest or applauded for the steadfastness of his vision?

The fair boy will probably never again do anything to outrage his genuinely warm and loving family circle; he’s the sort who conserves everything that’s good. The dark boy will possibly come to grief and lead others after him, but he’s the sort who changes the world.

Wonderful story. Simply wonderful.


If YOU need a short story to read, I have free ones here on my Free Reads page. I also have four collections for 99 cents each linked from my Short Stories page.

A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Write about a mismatched pair.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Boys by Chekhov #DealMeIn2018

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    August 6, 2018 at 6:24pm

    Lovely summary. Fair and dark are often used in fairy tales that way, so there’s a predisposition, but it’s also racist. The Germanic Northern Europeans had thin fair skin – because there was so little sun in the winter they’d all die of rickets, so the ones who survived have the fair coloring exaggerated. But images and stereotypes are the wrong way to deal with the modern world, when some Americans use the accidental stereotyping as ‘truth.’

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      August 7, 2018 at 10:05am

      Right on all counts, Alicia. I have a suspicion that there are more layers in a Russian reading of that duality, since Russia was settled, conquered, occupied, and amalgamated of such a wide array of genotypes and phenotypes.

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