A Possible symbolic setting of the story is made in the first sentence of the story “In the fifth century, just as now”. We now know that they lived a long time ago and that might suggest that he wants to show parallels of characteristics between contemporary readers and the characters set in the fifth century plot. The fact that Chekhov writes “Just as now” goes to further show parallels between back then and now. This suggests that Chekhov speaks to a timeless theme.
The city and the monastery exist as two different entities with no way of knowing how the other operates. This is enforced by the large distance between the two and the barren land that separates them. “To reach the monastery from it, meant a journey of over seventy miles across the desert.” “It” being the city. To further underline: “Only men who despised life, who had renounced it, and who came to the monastery as to the grave, ventured to cross the desert.” This is meant to symbolize that the monastery and the city are completely independent of one another. Any idea or theory of how the city is, is determined purely by the imagination of the monks in the monastery. The same goes for the inhabitants of the city and what they know of the monastery. The physical setting of the story therefore shows a separation between city and monastery and city. There is then a symbolic separation between the c...
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...urns out that the two groups of people obey the same laws of hedonistic behavior where the primary concern of life is to appease the senses.
Chekhov here manages to convey a message of an underlying human desire to fulfill the hedonistic desires of the senses because, although the monks have never touched, smelt, tasted, hears, seen or perceived the city in any way, they still wanted to appease their hedonistic desires in the same way as the town’s folk do. They wish to travel to the city where this is all possible, despite having never been there or satisfied their senses in the way that the town’s folk do. This is the timeless theme that Chekhov is trying to convey. In a sense, the grass is always greener on the other side and people will always try to reach for more than what they have to appease their senses.
Anton Chekhov, A Story without a Title
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