The Beggar By Anton Chekov
Summary and Analysis
The story’ The Beggar’ written by Anton Chekov gives the impression that attitude is more necessary than words to bring about a change in behaviour. An anonymous narrator narrates the tale in the third person and from the very beginning of the story, the reader knows that Chekhov will discuss the theme of poverty and hardship. Lushkov is no longer able to work because of his habit of alcoholism and has to resort to begging in order to survive. He also starts to tell lies about his misfortune hoping that fake stories he makes will help him get money from strangers as they will take pity on him.He understands it well that if a man is conscious that he needs money so that he can carry on drinking no one will help him.
Essentially Lushkov is being dishonest about maintaining or supporting his addiction to drinking. It is also noteworthy that due to his lying Skvortsov shows Lushkov little or no compassion believing that hard work will cure him of his homelessness and addiction to alcohol. While some critics might say that the path taken by Skvortsov is a good one, it turns out that the recommendation made by Skvortsov does not work for Lushkov and it is only by Olga’s compassion that Lushkov starts to truly improve his life and give up drinking. Lushkov identifies the error of his ways after listening and talking to Olga, and is able to change his attitude.
Though it is true that Skvortsov gave Lushkov the motivation to improve it is Olga who needs to be given full credit for the love and generosity she showed Lushkov. Had it not been for the life of Olga Lushkov things may not have improved for the best. It is also worth mentioning that Skvortsov allows the ego to take credit for helping Lushkov making his life better. In fact, he could be more impressed with himself and his skill or at least his thought that he may help others than the actual act of helping an person. The narrator feels in the story that Skvortsov’s kindness is more about raising his ego than about supporting Lushkov. Instead than expressing sympathy to Lushkov as they first meet Skvortsov is angry that Luzhkov has lied to him. He doesn’t seem to realize that Lushkov has no choice but to lie to him in an attempt to survive. If something Skvortsov may be the more unethical of the two men. Judging Lushkov for deception, without taking his conditions into account was not reasonable.
Though some critics may say that Lushkov tried to lie to Olga that he was unable to cut the wood and played on her good nature, it is more likely that Lushkov was unable to exert himself physically by his alcoholism. Anything which is missing on Skvortsov. It should also be remembered that whilst Skvortsov feels he is working out of kindness he is actually earning something. He has got his wood chopped. He is not selflessly behaving but he wants us to see him in that way. Throughout the story, the number one person in Skvortsov’s life is Skvortsov himself. Each task that he tells Lushkov to do is for his own benefit whether it is to chop the wood or to help move furniture. Through caring for Lushkov, he cleanses his conscience by way of paying Lushkov and in many respects patronized him when it comes to Lushkov’s alcohol consumption. There is no indication at any point in the story that Skvortsov understands Lushkov’s alcoholic addiction.
Olga may also be the most significant character of the story, as she is the opposite of Skvortsov in several respects. She seeks to support Lushkov emotionally by cutting the wood and offering him advice on the dangers of drinking. She (selflessly) takes more interest in Lushkov’s life than Skvortsov did. It is also clear that Lushkov is thankful to Olga for something the reader is conscious of as he interacts at the theatre with Skvortsov. He has not lost everything Olga has done for him through the passage of time. That appears to come to Skvortsov as a surprise. Who acts like he is the one in need of helping Lushkov regain his future.The truth, though, is that the words and deeds of Skvortsov are no substitute for Olga’s actions which is the true catalyst for reform in Lushkov’s life. It could also be a case that Chekhov indicates that when it comes to modifying it’s the hand of a woman who can lead an adult rather than a male.
Instinctively a woman may know what is best for a person whilst a man may be cynical and compare his own conditions and advantages with those of someone who is less fortunate, as is the case in the story as far as Luzhkov and Skvortsov are concerned.While it would appear that Skvortsov was aware of people, the fact is that he found Lushkov to be only a liar and an alcoholic. All of these were accurate but Lushkov with the encouragement of Olga proved he is so much more to offer. Because he is as good as anyone even though he might have had to face tough situations.
Questions and Answers of The Beggar
Q.1 Why was Lushkov, the beggar compelled to beg?
Ans. Lushkov, the beggar was compelled to beg because he was expelled from a Russian musical band because of his drunkenness. He was a lazy and pampered man who did not want to do any work. So, he took to begging and lying to get money. He used to tell false stories to others and gain their sympathy to demand money. He found begging and lying to get money easier than working.
Q.2 Why did the beggar get a merciless scolding?
Ans. The beggar, who used to tell others false stories to get money, one day meet a lawyer Skvortsov. He told him that he was a village schoolmaster and lost his job before a year. He had to face a difficult time and now he had found a new job. But he did not have any means to go to his workplace. So he demanded some money from Skvortsov. The lawyer remembered that the same man told him some other story last day before to get money. He realised that the beggar was trying to befool him. So he gave the beggar a merciless scolding. Skvortsov was angry because the beggar showed his helplessness and tried to cheat him. He tried to blackmail him emotionally to gain his sympathy.
Q.3 ‘I cannot get on without lying’ said the beggar why did he say so?
Ans. When the beggar got a merciless scolding because of his lying and cheating he tried to defend. He said that he couldn’t get on without lying as he was forced by his circumstances to tell lies. He said that if he had told the truth that he had been expelled from the Russian choir for alcoholism, no one would have given him money. He would have died of hunger and cold. He tried to justify his act of lying by showing his helplessness. It made Skvortsov angrier.
Q.4 How did the beggar defend his act of begging?
Ans. Skvortsov was indignant at the beggar and gave him a merciless scolding. The beggar defends his act of begging saying that he had no other way but to beg to get money. He said that if the people had come to know the truth about him, they would not have given him anything. He acted shamelessly and showed his disinclination to work. He gave silly excuses to defend his act of begging.
Q.5 As soon as the beggar was offered a job, he refused it and made an excuse. What were the excuses?
Ans. The beggar was lazy, pampered and disinclined to work. So he made excuses not to do any work and defended his act of begging shamelessly. Whenever he was offered any job, he refused it and made excuses. He said that he was late to be a shopman because one chad has to begin it at a young age. Then he said that no one would take him as a house servant because he was not of that class. He also said that he had no experience of working in a factory. As for as trade was concerned he knows nothing.
Q.6 The author said that the beggar has been taken at his words. Do you agree?
Ans. Whenever the beggar was offered any job, he made excuses which frustrated Skvortsov. When the beggar was asked to cut wood, he replied that he would not mind doing that but where he would get the job because the regular woodcutters were out of work.
Skvortsov was irritated and himself offered him to cut wood. Now the beggar couldn’t deny because he was taken at his words. He went to the woodshed not because he really wanted to earn money but because he was trapped in his own words.
Q.7 Write a character sketch of Skvortsov, the lawyer.
Ans. Skvortsov is an important character of this story. He was a lawyer in Petersburg. He became indignant at the beggar because who tried to cheat him telling false stories. His deceitful behaviour assaulted upon compassion and charity of Skvortsov. The lawyer’s heart was priced with certain virtues like kindliness, a feeling heart and sympathy for the unhappy. So he gave the beggar a merciless scolding and threatened him to hand him over to the police. But when his anger passed he felt sympathy for the beggar and gave him the job of cutting wood. It shows that the lawyer really wanted to help the beggar.
Q.8 Olga behaved width the beggar very was her behaviour real?
Ans. When the beggar told Skuortsov that he was thankful to Olga because she had really saved him and changed his life completely, Skvortsov was really surprised. Though the cook Olga behaved very rudely with the beggar, her behaviour was not real. Her words were hard but she really wanted to change the beggar’s life. She cursed him for being a drunkard and disinclined to work but at the same time did his work so that he could get money. There was a kind and sympathetic heart behind her hard face. She really wanted to make the beggar ashamed of himself. So, she behaved in such a manner.
Q.9 Did Skvortsov really succeed in reforming the beggar? Give reason.
Ans. Skvortsov was proud that he had brought a change in the beggar and put him on the path of honesty. He was happy that his words had put a great impact on the beggar. He took all the credit of reforming the beggar and felt happy about it, Undoubtedly, Skvortsov really wanted to help the beggar and his life but his concern was more in his words his attitude. His intentions were noble, but he just limited himself up to his words. He provided him with the job of wood cutting and thought that he had done his work. He did not think how the lazy and pampered beggar would transform into a hard worker. He thought that only his words and good intentions were enough to bring about a change in the beggar. But the beggar changed because of the attitude of cook Olga and not because of Skvortsov’s words.
Q.“It was the attitude, not the words that brought about a change in the beggar “Explain”.
Ans. The story ‘The Beggar’ written by “Anton Chekov” gives the message that attitude is more important than the words to bring about a change. In the story, Lushkov who worked in a musical band was turned out of it because of his alcoholism. Skvortsov, a lawyer wanted to bring him on the path of honesty. He gave the beggar a merciless scolding for his laziness and disinclination to work and also offered him the job of cutting wood. Later on, when the beggar gave up drinking and started working hard, Skvortsov took all the credit of reforming the beggar himself but it was the attitude of and not the words that brought about a change in the beggar. Olga the cook really showed that attitude which not only made the beggar ashamed of his laziness but also forced him to work. When Lushkou saw that Olga did all his work so that he could get money, he felt ashamed of himself. Olga cursed him and behaved very rudely but she wanted him to leave begging and lying. She cried for him and chopped wood for him. This mad the beggar realized his fault and he started working himself.