Gooseberries By Anton Chekhov (Summary) Plus One

“Gooseberries” is a brilliant short story by an iconic Russian writer Anton Chekhov. The story was written towards the end of Chekhov’s life, and was first published as the middle story of The Little Trilogy in 1898.

Detailed Summary

The story “Gooseberries” is written by Anton Chekhov. At the very start of the story, Ivan Ivan Ivanich, who is a veterinary surgeon, and Bourkin, who is a school teacher, are walking through the field. They’re both enjoying walking in the countryside. It’s about to rain. They’re both trying to get a shelter. They finally get to Sophino, where their friend, Aliokhin, lives. They see Aliokhin in one of his barns.

Aliokhin is a farmer who is nearly 40 years old. He’s a tall, robust guy with long hair. One might assume, from looks, that he is a professor or a painter. He wears the “grimy white shirt” and the “rope belt” and the pants. When Aliokhin sees Ivan Ivanich and Bourkin, he invites them to his spacious home. Since they’re all wet, they’re going to have a bath in the bathing-room at first. Rather than swimming in the bathing-room, Ivan Ivanich goes outside to enjoy the rain. He swims and dives in a bathing pool.

After Aliokhin, Bourkin and Ivan Ivanich returns from the bath, they stay in the large drawing room. Ivan Ivanich continues to speak about his brother, Nicholai Ivanich, who is two years younger than him. At the age of nineteen, Nicholai was granted a job in the Exchequer Court. Tchimsha-Himalaysky was their father who died as a cantonist while serving in the army.

When Ivan Ivanich and Nicholai Ivanich were small children, they lived in the countryside where they did various activities such as “. . . spent day and nights in the fields and the woods, minded the horses, barked the lime-trees, fished . . .”. Thus they enjoyed and merged with nature. These countryside experiences created a great impact on Nicholai Ivanich’s mind. He always desires to go back to the country and settle down there. He yearned to buy a small farm where a river or lake flows nearby.

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But Ivan Ivanich does not like to settle down in a countryside. As he says, it is like to “. . . hide yourself in a farmhouse is not like – it is egoism, laziness”.

On the other hand, Nicholai Ivanich craved to spend his life with nature such as “eating out in the open air”, “sleeping in the sun, “gazing at the fields”, etc.He enjoyed reading farm books and almanacks. He read advertisements in the newspaper, particularly land for sale. He used to find a land where there was “a farmhouse, a river, a garden, a mill and a mill.” He also dreamed that there should be “garden walls, flowers, fruit, nests, carp in the pond,” etc. on his farm. Often modifications were made to his dream based on the advertisement. But one thing was typical in his dream, that there would be a gooseberry bush any time he thought about buying land.

In order to buy Nicholai Ivanich’s dream farmhouse with a gooseberry bush, he used to save all his money in a bank. He used to live like a beggar. When Ivan Ivanich saw his brother’s pitiful life, he often offered him money to go on a holiday to get some refreshment. But that money was also saved by Nicholai Ivanich. At the age of forty, he married “an elderly, ugly widow” to pursue his dream, and he wanted the money that he later deposited in a bank under his signature. He “half starved” her, and she died afterwards.

At last, Nicholai Ivanich made his dream come true. He had purchased three hundred acres of land. It consisted of a farmhouse, a cottage, a park. There was a river of “coffee-coloured” water. Later he put up a gooseberry-bush. At last, he started to love his country life.

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Last year Ivan Ivanich visited Nicholai Ivanich’s estate which he called as “Tchimbarshov Corner or Himalayskoe”. When Ivan reached the estate, he saw “ditches, fences, hedges, rows of young fir-trees”, etc. in his yard. Ivan Ivanich was welcomed by a lazy “red-haired dog” and a cook to Nicholai Ivanich’s house to see him. Ivan Ivanich described Nicholai Ivanich as “old”, “stout” and “flabby”. After Ivan met Nicholai happily took him to see the estate called “Tchimbarshov Corner or Himalayskoe”.

As Ivan Ivanich and Nicholai Ivanich were walking around the estate, Ivan noticed that Nicholai was living like a landowner who came from peasants living in the countryside. It treated the peasants very well. When they had some sickness, he cured them with soda and castor oil. He had spent his birthday with these peasants. There will be a “thanksgiving” service where he offered them a “half-bucket of vodka” to drink.

When Ivan Ivanich was watching the estate of Nicholai Ivanich, he felt that nature was luring him. In the evening, they ate gooseberries, which had been plucked for the first time, with the tea. Nicholai Ivanich has been incredibly happy. Nicholai Ivanich ate a plate of gooseberries again in the night. Seeing this, Ivan Ivanich knew that one should have a happier life.

Ivan Ivanich, after telling all these things to Aliokhin and Bourkin, says, ” we cannot have everything at once, and that every idea is realised in time. But who says so?.. why should we wait ?” “By saying these things, Ivan sought to make his friends understand that one shouldn’t try to get old to get anything. In every moment, you can do something. The only thing that one needs is a desire to never give up. Otherwise, in the end, as Ivan desperately says, “. . . Ah! If I were young!”

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Ivan’s storey is not well accepted by Aliokhin and Bourkin because they are happy to learn about “charming people” and “women.” They go to sleep knowing they’re going to lose their precious time by listening to Ivan’s storey. As the storey ends, Ivan is in his bed, realising that he’s ruined his life by merely living a monotonous town life like anyone else.

Themes of The Story

We see that the author explores two of his favourite themes in this storey: social injustice and the question for fulfilment. Ostensibly, this tale is about the hypocrisy of landowners who neglect the plight of others who are less fortunate than themselves. But Chekhov also poses a more subtle question than class divisions, as we can see when Ivan declares the hollowness of personal achievement. Ivan believes that successful people are oblivious to reality because they feel that they are separated from misfortune. Ivan thus despairs of his own happiness as he realises that “life will show him her claws sooner or later.” By this stroke, which comes like a sting in the tail of his text, Chekhov jolts his readers out of complacent objectivity. We are compelled to ask whether life is something to be sailed through without the expectation of facing challenges or failures, or whether it gives us an opportunity to understand “something greater and more rational” than happiness. Chekhov took the opportunity to address Tolstoy’s philosophical question, “How much land does a man need? “When Ivan asserts that man needs only the freedom to roam around the globe, where he can “have room to display all the qualities and peculiarities of his free spirit.”

Questions and Answers

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