Book Review: Misery (Anton Chekhov).

Misery is a short story written by Anton Chekhov. I have read a couple of short stories written by Anton Chekhov before like The Witch. I like Chekhov’s writing style and narration. It is something unique yet relatable in a way.

Misery is a story about Iona Patapov, a sledge driver. The story is set during winter in St. Petersburg rough in the late 19th century. Iona has just recently lost his son. He feels isolated in his grief and wants to share what happened to him with others. He tries to talk to a number of strangers, he wants someone to listen to his story, but he is dismissed or ignored by the same people. He spends the whole day trying to talk about his grief with his passengers and others he crosses paths with. Although Iona tries sharing his loss multiple times, he doesn’t find anyone to talk to.

The main theme in Misery is human connections. Iona is lonely and grieving. He just wants someone to listen to what he has to say and maybe understand his grief over losing his son. Not one person shows any empathy towards him. A couple of them take casual interest but are immediately distracted and don’t end up listening to him. It’s such a powerful story about isolation and loneliness. You feel sad and heartbroken for Iona as he struggles to find any sort of comfort with people. In the end, Iona ends up pouring his heart out to his horse, knowing he won’t go anywhere.

I did some research about the time period in which the story is set. Chekhov through Iona’s story has somewhere tried to show the situation of working-class people in Tsarist Russia. The people, who we come across throughout the story when Iona tries to talk to them, belong to different classes of society. All of them dismiss Iona’s grief. Iona, on the other hand, maintains a certain level of good humor even when dealing with tragedy and is somewhat numb about it. He doesn’t want to complain about his situation but simply talk about losing his son.

The story is actually short. I heard the audio version of it, and it’s barely 12 minutes. But the impact of the themes and the way it is narrated is very powerful. Anton Chekhov has a way of commenting on issues without getting preachy, and that hits the mark for me. Misery is a sad story with a pitiable protagonist, and it’s a must-read.

*Click on the book cover above to get a copy.

Author: Aarti Athavle

Daydreamer - Writer - Bibliophile

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