The Runaway by Anton Chekhov

I’m trying to get back on track with my Deal-Me-In Challenge, and I finally drew the first short story of the year, The Runaway by Anton Chekhov.

Science and Charity (1897)
Pablo Picasso
source Wikiart

After a long journey, young Pashka and his mother wait at the hospital to see the doctor. Pashka has a boil on his elbow, but the mother has waited too long and the doctor scolds her, declaring that the wound is infected and the boy may lose his arm.  A stay is required, about which Pashka is not thrilled but he is lured by the doctor’s promises of seeing a live fox and eating sugar-candy.  After a sumptuous dinner of soup, roast beef and bread, the boy awaits the doctor to honour his commitment but when he doesn’t come, he explores the wards, finally returning to his own where he hears the patient, Mikhailo, coughing and wheezing.  When he wakes late in the night, he finds three people at the dead Mikhailo’s bed, yet when they leave, the old man’s chest wheezes again.  Terrified, Pashka screams for his mother, leaps out of bed and tears through the wards and into the yard, intending to run home but a graveyard looms ahead, and Pashka is intensely relieve to spot the kind doctor through a window in a building.  When he burst inside the doctor’s words echo:  “You’re a donkey, Pashka!  Now aren’t you a donkey?  You ought to be whipped ….”

The Runaway (1958)
Norman Rockwell
source Wikiart

Well, what to make of that?  There is the danger of infection, the tension of being separated from his mother, the doctor’s promises that manipulate (for good or ill, who knows) yet come to nought, the wards of sick people and the boy’s terror, perhaps at hearing a dead man who appears to still live.  It’s curious, especially since Pashka’s condition appears serious, yet the reader never has a whisper as to its outcome.  Chekhov himself spent most of his life in the medical profession, so one wonders if he is also exploring the psychological methods physicians might use on their patients.  Through the boy’s eyes the doctor is “kind” but is he really?  The boy has a serious medical condition yet no one seems to be rushing him to surgery, and the doctor has promised many delights for Pashka and is delivering none of them.  What is behind Chekhov’s tale?  Is it a simple tale or a story with a deeper meaning?

Birthhouse of Anton Chekhov
source Wikipedia

Deal Me In Challenge #11



0 thoughts on “The Runaway by Anton Chekhov

  1. That sounds very intriguing… I've not ready much (if any, actually) Chekhov stories but I do have a collection so I'll have to get to it. Got a lot of his plays to read too!

    Funny that's your first story of the year – my story section is nearly finished, it's plays that don't seem to come out and they're the ones I'm the most enthusiastic about! 🙂 I wish I'd thought to include Chekhov for the stories for my selection… Next year I will!

  2. I have not joined any of these reading clubs but I do love Chekov. I don't think I've read this story but I love the way he writes. I'm learning a lot about why we like a book, maybe not even for the subject matter, but for the way the story is written. I am publishing my review of C.S. Lewis' Essays on Criticism and I've linked back to you, just FYI 🙂

  3. I really like his writing but I'm not sure yet if I "get" him. Those darn Russians. I really feel I need to read a biography about them before tackling their works!

    I've drawn mostly essays (which I'm fine with) and come up short with children's books and short stories. Of course, I'm way behind schedule, so once again, some of those will drag over to next year.

  4. I love Chekhov's writing but I haven't read enough of his works to feel like I truly "know" him. I'm starting to get better acquainted with Dostoyevsky though, as I'm reading his Brothers Karamazov now and quite love it!

    Thanks so much for the link back! As you know, Lewis is my hero! 🙂

  5. good to read another post with the genuine "Cleopatra" touch: easy to understand and insightful; i don't have much Chekhov either, but i've been bemused by what i've read; "the Cherry Orchard", mainly… which i didn't get too well, i'm afraid…

  6. I have read some Chekhov and their depth kind of takes time to get through; but I like these mental gymnastics where the narrator does not say anything flat out and you have to slowly figure it out!Its just that does not make it a easy read and you need time for those deep readings!

  7. Thanks, Mudpuddle; it's good to be back!

    I find these Russians frustrating because they are so very different! I think I may have read The Cherry Orchard long ago, but I can't remember it clearly. I'm going to keep reading Chekhov and I'll see how we get on! 🙂

  8. Well, thanks for this insight. I actually read this story three times, which didn't really bring more clarity, only more questions. I wonder if part of it, is that eastern mentality that I can sometimes struggle with? In any case, I'll keep trying!

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!