Anton Chekhov, the Iconoclast

Anton Chekhov, the Iconoclast

Anton Chekhov, the Iconoclast

Anton Chekhov, the Iconoclast

Synopsis

Lee J. Williames views Anton Chekhov as a change agent and iconoclast in a manner similar to Zola and Darwin. This study shows that Chekhov was deeply influenced by the scientific method, that he was objective in his representations and that he carefully chose what he wrote about. It was his intention to explode stereotypes by clearly and objectively stating the problems of Russian society in his stories. He felt that his readers would be moved to accomplish change through individual initiative if they saw clearly what the problems were in Russia

To demonstrate these points, this work presents an intellectual biography of Chekhov and then examines the objectivity and validity of his views on Russian society.

Excerpt

This author views Anton Chekhov as a change agent and iconoclast in a manner similar to Zola and Darwin. This is a view which stand as a revision to many popularly held views of Chekhov. This study will show that Chekhov was deeply influenced by the scientific method, that he was objective in his representations and that he carefully chose what he wrote about. It was his intention to explode stereotypes by clearly and objectively stating the problems of Russian society in his stories. He felt that his readers would be moved to accomplish change through individual initiative if they saw clearly what the problems were in Russia.

The effects of Chekhov's work can be seen in the myths and stereotypes that he destroyed. In 1897 Anton Chekhov exploded the century old myth of the Russian peasant and clearly stated the peasant question with the publication of his The Peasants. This provoked immediate government censorship but it and his other stories helped open the eyes of the literate Russian public to the reality of the lives of the non-literate Russians in the decade prior to the 1905 revolution.

To demonstrate the above points, this study will present first an intellectual biography of Chekhov and then examine the objectivity and validity of his views on Russian society. This will be accomplished through a thorough presentation of Chekhov's views on the Peasants, their living conditions, how they related to others, what forces affected them indirectly and present a profile of the other key elements in Russian society. Chekhov's views will be juxtaposed with scholarly opinion to determine the truth of his views. The author draws from the primary sources of Chekhov's thought, his letters and his stories. His stories have been favored in this study because they clearly present Chekhov's views, they have a far broader scope than his plays and are unencumbered by the demands of staging. This study also draws from those primary critical sources of his thought, the studies of Chekhov by his contemporaries and later critics.

In the course of the study certain controversial points will be established. First, that Chekhov's image has been distorted over the years to meet the needs of ideologically motivated critics. These distortions demand a revisionist's correction which this study provides. Second, that the mature Chekhov was intellectually formed by two forces, his education in the sciences and his literary experience. Out . . .

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