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‘The Servant’ is a short story written by S T Semyonov. It is the story of a peasant lad. Divided into four parts, it revolves around his life and what takes place when he takes up a job in Moscow.
About the Author:
S T Semyonov (1868-1922) was a prominent Russian author. Born a peasant, his works have a serious note on them where they talk about the hardships of their life. Famous works of his include ‘Twenty Five years in a Village’, ‘The Collected works of S T Semyonov’ in addition to several plays and poems.
The theme of this short story revolves around the idea of humility. The story shows how Gerasim remains humble through and through, even in the face of rising difficulties.
The story begins with Gerasim, a poor peasant struggling to find work in Moscow during the time of Christmas. Although he had previously worked in Moscow as a servant, having been called to military and not being drafted, he returned only to remain unemployed. He is deeply disheartened. He found himself a burden to the people around him. Times became so hard, he even had to go without food for days at times.
At this point, he meets his friend Yegor voluntarily. Yegor worked for a merchant named Sharov. When Gerasim explains his problem to him, he berates him for not making an impression so much so that his old employer would dismiss the new worker and give the job back to him. He even boasts of his own work position. Gerasim is aghast as he hears this, for he finds that it is morally incorrect for him to do so. Nevertheless, he praises Yegor and waits for him to return from the call of his master.
Yegor leaves and returns with an idea. He tells Gerasim that he could talk to his employer and get him a job as a servant. He says that the man already working there was old and didn’t do a good enough job. Gerasim thanks him profusely and leaves. Yegor, finding a good opportunity, puts in his word to his employer, Mr. Sharov. Mr. Sharov is reluctant to let go of the servant who had worked for him for fifteen years as he felt that it would be a sin to do so. He also felt sorry for the old man as he was poor. Yegor brushes away his concerns and convinces his master to take in Gerasim. In the end, Sharov gives in.
The next day, Gerasim is employed. Happy, he was about to leave when he heard voices. It was Polikarpych, the servant, talking with his wife. They sounded miserable, contemplating on taking up begging. They express their displeasure of their privileged master, how he dismissed them off without a second thought. In their talk, it is also revealed that Yegor is a dishonest man. Yet, they don’t decide to tell on him, even as the wife sobs. Gerasim, feeling bad for them, returns to Yegor and states that he doesn’t want that position. Even though he flies into a rage and screams at him, Gerasim returns, feeling light hearted.
This is a story that teaches people how, no matter the distress they find themselves in, they shouldn’t inflict harm on others for their personal gains. Gerasim, although poor himself, refuses to throw an equally poor family under the bus just so he could get employed. He throws away a perfectly good job to do what was morally correct, a fact that is laudable.