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For Your World
A story consists of many small parts. When these parts are put together they create a piece of literature that conveys a message. This message can be about almost anything. Literature can tell a story about happiness or an experience of love. It all depends on what pieces and how they are placed together which makes a story. Anton Chekhov has written a wonderfully pieced together short story titled “Misery”. The elements which allow me to understand “Misery” are narrator point of view, setting, character, and theme.
Setting is the only other device, besides the title, which can set a mood for the story before any characters are introduced. When you place any character in a setting, that setting reflects onto the character. “Iona Potapov, the sledge driver, is all white like a ghost… His little mare is white and motionless too…She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people…” (69); this quote allows for the reader to build a picture of the scenery. No one would want to have to sit on a sledge for many hours and be covered in snow waiting for someone to come by. The words used to describe Iona’s setting are very carefully picked to create this powerful imagery at the beginning of the story. The city is described as a slough. Slough is defined as a state of deep despair or moral degradation. With this deep pit of despair called a town, “monstrous lights” and “unceasing uproar” continue all round these two characters. With this as the opening paragraph the story has already started an emotion or feeling inside the readers mind.
How a story is told can alter the meaning of the story. Finding the right combination of who tells the story if very difficult. When the right order of voices are found it makes the story come alive. It allows for the imagery of the person’s actions and the characters thoughts to be read at the same time. “Misery” has found this great combination.
Narrators are used show or place a given mood in the story. “It is a long time since Iona has budged. They came out of the yard before dinner-time and not a single fare yet.” (69) At the start of the story the narrator has started the emotion of sympathy for the main character.
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If Iona describes the surroundings it would become a long winded story. Iona’s first person point of view is only needed for the personal conversations between characters in the story. When a conversation is held in first person it allows for emotions to be shown and the character to show through. The main character of the story is shown as a poor, lonely man who is only trying to talk to someone. To help give the character more depth conversations between the drunks, cop and he need to be expressed through dialog and not through a third person point of view. One example of this device is, “He-he me-er-ry gentlemen. The only wife for me now is the damp earth… He-ho-ho! The grave that is! Here my son’s dead and I am alive…” (71) This quote shows us that it is more powerful to have a character convey emotions through their vocabulary. If the narrator had told of this information the message would have just been a footnote in the reader’s mind.
It does not matter who is telling the story if the characters do not fit. The two main characters of the short story “Misery” are Iona and his horse. Characters are the biggest part in a short story. Unfortunately for the short story, space is limited. Characters can not be fully developed in stories that short. All we learn about Iona is that his son has died and that he is lonely. No further detail is given. The reader is not told of what he does in his spear time or what his interests are. However, that is what makes a short story enjoyable. The quick straight to the point story, which has no desire or need to add immense descriptions, gets its points or morals across. In order to do this the characters need to be simple and moldable to the story. They must not need great introductions but traits which everyone can understand.
Misery is the perfect example of a these simple characters. The horse in Misery seems to play an insignificant role. Connections are made between Iona and the horse through out the story. As Iona receives his first fare for the night, the horse and Iona both have the same head jerk reaction to the fare. (69) This action starts to show the bond between the two. Chekhov almost gives a foreshadowing element with the connection being made through out the story. To show that the horse and Iona are on the same mental level, Chekhov has Iona think of going home and the mare without even having to be told, begins to trot to the yard. (72) Once the reader has understood the force between these two kindred spirits, Iona must talk to someone and what better person then his only friend, the horse.
Without Iona this story could not be complete. Iona has been made to fit the needs of the story beautifully. This simple character has been placed in a situation almost everyone has been put in before. The need to have human contact and someone to listen to their problems is a conflict known by all. Chekhov’s story is very clear and easy to understand because of this simple character.
Unlike the character, the theme of misery is not as easy to pin point. Chekhov did not make the theme in “Misery” stand out like he did the characters. The traits which make up the theme are easily determinable but the problem is what he wanted as his message. From reading the story you could come to the conclusion that the theme is about suffering and needing to talk away your problems. Another take on the story could be we, as a race, are indifferent to others suffering. (75) Regardless of what the actual theme was, the grasp of what Chekhov was trying to communicate is easily understood. No one wants to be alone in this world, especially if something terrible has occurred in your life. With this simple subject it allowed for the story to become easily understandable.
Theme is what starts your story. Theme sets the guide lines for your writing. How you write, what you write all depends on what your plan or theme. Unfortunately theme does not finish the paper. The elements which are required to make a story are numerous. They can range from word choice to plot. These choices can make your story worth reading or make it become cage liner. Setting is one of these choices. Your setting must help explain or emphasis your mood or emotion throughout the story. Setting helps show what is going on in the story with out having to waste words in explaining the situation. If something is described as being grey and cold, the image that comes to mind is not happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is needed to be explained through either a narrator or a character. The point of view helps to make a story easier to comprehend. Allowing for a narrator or a character to explain why an action has made them happy allows for any reader to grasp the feelings and emotions that the author is trying to express. Characters and point of view go hand in hand. These elements depend on each other to articulate what the author’s message states.
Literature is a very complex and difficult entity to tame. Literature comes to life when being read by someone else. Your ideas when put on paper become a new world only accessible through your words. Your words are what make this world clear or cloudy. It is the literary elements which make up the essentials of this world you have created. For your world to survive and the people in it and your elements must be clear, pure, and well put together. Anton Chekhov’s short story “Misery” is the world. With clear images and good foundations we can look into that world and understand, with an unobstructed view, what Chekhov wanted to say.
Chekhov, Anton. “Misery”. Introduction to Literature. Ed. Sylvan, Barnet et al. 13th ed. New York. Longman, 2004, 69-75.