The works of Russian author Anton Chekhov are held in high esteem by writers and critics alike. He remains, even today, among the greatest writers of short fiction in history.
So, who is Anton Chekhov, and what makes his works so special? In this article, we’ll explore the best Anton Chekhov free short stories to indulge in at whatever season and day. Let’s dive right in.
Who is Anton Chekhov?
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian doctor, playwright, and short-story writer. Chekhov practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career, and once said that “Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress.”
Most of his works emphasized the profundities of human nature, the shrouded significance of everyday life, and the fine line of satire and misfortune.
Similar to Charles Dickens, Chekhov was no stranger to financial hardships. Regardless, through dedication and sheer brilliance, he’d made a name for himself in both the world of literary fiction and medicine.
Best Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
During his lifetime, Anton Chekhov wrote a total of 201 short stories. Choosing the best is certainly not an easy feat, but after hours of contemplation, I’ve selected four stories that deeply represent the true magic of his writing.
The Rothschild’s Fiddle is about a frugal man named Yacob, who was a coffin maker. Throughout his short life, he’s only concerned about the money he’d make. So much so that even after his wife dies, instead of grieving, he thinks about what a great and cheap coffin he made for her.
If I had to summarise Rothschild’s Fiddle in the simplest way possible, I’d say that it’s a sad story about a sad man with a sad life. After I managed to wipe the last of my tears, this tale unknowingly made me question the meaning of human life.
What’s Rothschild’s Fiddle All About?
To quote the final words of Yacov, “Why did people, in general, hinder each other from living? If it were not for hatred and malice people would get immense benefit from one another.”
The Rothschild’s Fiddle is filled with themes of bitterness, intolerance, and regret. By becoming a man whose sole focus is monetary gain, Yacov misses opportunities to create something meaningful and beautiful in the life he was given.
The Darling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially since it’s considered to be a controversial read on feminism. According to reputable sources, this short story reflects Chekhov’s criticism of women who believed their happiness was dependent on their husbands.
Regardless of the critics, I highly encourage you to read this story. Olenka, our main character, was written so vividly that you can’t help but share her sentiments. Personally, as someone who thrives on taking care of others, this story has impacted me in more ways than one.
What’s The Darling All About?
The lesson found in The Darling differs from every individual who reads it. Some believe it’s about the value of women, while others say it’s about the dangers of spiritual and intellectual dependence on others.
This type of toxic, handicapped love takes a toll on one’s sanity. In this story, poor Olenka fails to uncover her own beauty, talent, and capacities because of her desperate love for her husband.
Shrouded in loneliness and dependency, this book will make you wish you could jump inside the pages so you can be Olenka’s friend. At least, that’s what I felt when I finished reading this book!
This story begins with Kashtanka, a dog who becomes separated from her owner. Desperate, hungry, and exhausted, she falls asleep in the doorway of a circus clown. When the clown saw her terrible sadness, he took her in and began training her for the circus.
But when Kashtanka recognizes her previous owner in the audience during one of her performances, she immediately rushes over to greet him. After witnessing such a heartfelt reunion, the clown allows Kashtanka to return to her former master.
What’s Kashtanka All About?
Kashtanka is a story about pure love and loyalty. It makes us think, where does a dog’s loyalty lie, and why? What do the pets we care for feel after being separated from us?
This short tale is one of my favorite stories written by Chekov, simply because it has moved me so much. After reading, I had to give my dog a kiss; he deserves it for being such a great friend!
The Steppe is written from the point of view of a child, wherein he was taken from his home to attend a school in a larger provincial city. What makes this story stand out, other than its plot, is how Chekov described the child’s journey.
Like we’ve seen in The Darling, Chekov had a talent for turning the “unloved” and the “worthless” elements of society into something beautiful. In The Steppe, there’s a sort of indescribable innocence when he detailed the stillness and vastness of the steppe, the weather, and the time. It’s genuinely phenomenal.
My favorite scene was when the boy finally says goodbye to Father Khristofor: “Yegorushka kissed his hand and burst into tears. Something deep down whispered that he would never see that old man again.” Doesn’t that make you feel melancholic?
What’s The Steppe All About?
The lesson found in The Steppe is found in the last few moments of the story. “He sank exhausted onto the bench, shedding bitter tears as he greeted that new, unknown life that was just beginning for him. What would life be like?”
Indeed, the thought of anything new is as frightening as it is exciting. Regardless of the boy’s sadness and hesitance, he still comes to understand that life is for living. It’s beautiful and mysterious beyond words and human comprehension.
Anton’s Chekhov’s mastery of the human condition is astounding. Truly, it’s no wonder why he’s deemed to be one of the world’s best literature writers.
Although I’ve only covered four of Chekhov’s stories, I urge you to read some of his other works. Most of Anton Chekhov’s free short stories can be found online, all at your disposal.