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‘The Grief’ is a short story written by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. It traces the life of an impoverished cab driver who was filled with grief upon his son’s untimely demise. This is a tale of his woe where he struggles to find some relief by sharing his grief.
About the Author:
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) was an eminent Russian playwright. His stories were widely read and had a realistic touch. Famous works of his include ‘The Cherry Orchard’, ‘The Seagull’, and ‘Uncle Vanya’.
The theme of this short story is catharsis. An aggrieved cab driver Iona Potapov seeks to alleviate his sorrow by purging his wounded feelings, only to attain it at the end of the story. The uncaring nature of humans can also be taken as a theme of this short story.
The story begins in a beautiful, snowy twilight. Cab driver Iona Potapov, however, is standing, his form pale like a phantom’s. He and his equally white horse, as they stood motionless, are called by an officer who wished to hail his cab. As they make their way amidst swearing and curses, Iona musters up the courage to turn and open up to the officer about his son Barin’s death due to possible fever. The officer is uncaring, his primary concern to reach his destination before the next day and proceeds to sleep throughout the journey.
The Three Young Men:
After the officer got down, three loud young men hailed Iona’s cab. Despite the fare being offered very less for their destination, Iona agrees. The ungrateful men however profusely insult him and cursed loudly, all of which Iona bore with silence. At a short pause of silence, he tries to share his grief with them but was rudely cut off by the callous remark on how everyone dies. Even as Iona tries to tell them more, their destination arrived so they got off.
The Hall Porter:
Iona is deeply aggrieved for the world as a whole seemed to not bother about the grief that was drowning him. Seeking some relief, an anguished Iona tries to talk to a hall porter, only to be turned away. Dejected, he goes back to the stables, feeling even more so as he hadn’t earned enough. There again, he tries to approach a young man in need of a drink in vain for he promptly ignores him and fell asleep.
In the end, his feelings not to be repressed, Iona seeks refuge in his horse for he had given up on humans. He tells his tale of woe, of how his son, who would have made a fine cab driver, had passed, how he had suffered long from his illness and the crushing grief that accompanied his death even as his daughter was alone back in his village. The horse, unlike fellow humans, listens.
This is a heart wrenching tale of a despairing father, stuck in a world of insolent humans. Human beings’ callousness borders on cruelty where they are unwilling to offer their time or patience to lend an ear to a fellow, aggrieved man, to try to ease the burden in his heart.