A Happy Ending by Anton Chekhov
In A Happy Ending by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of marriage, happiness, loneliness, choice, control, indecision and desperation. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Chekhov is exploring the theme of marriage. Stytchkin is talking to Lyubov and detailing to her what type of man he is and what type of woman he is looking for. What is interesting about Stytchkin’s description of himself is the fact that he admits to being lonely and it is this sense of loneliness which appears to be the driving factor in Stytchkin’s search for a wife. If anything Stytchkin is unhappy in life and what is interesting is that he equates marriage to happiness. Believing that should he get married he will be happy and his life will improve. Though this may be the case it also suggests that Stytchkin at present is uncomfortable in his life and may in reality be desperate to find a wife. It is as though Stytchkin is running out of time or at least he feels as though he is running out of time. The fact that Stytchkin is so indecisive (or picky) when it comes to the type of woman he wants to marry doesn’t help matters either. Though some critics might suggest that Stytchkin is just been precise about the type of woman he would like to marry the reality is more likely that Stytchkin doesn’t really know what type of woman he wants to marry. Which suggests that Stytchkin hasn’t really thought fully about what he wants. Something that lends the reader to again believe that Stytchkin is desperate.
Though Stytchkin does most of the talking in the story Lyubov is an interesting character. She appears to profit from other people’s desperation and in many ways yields a lot of power. It is through her actions that she has the ability to make men happy. What is also noticeable about the story is the fact that there are only two voices when the reality is the story involves three people. Lyubov, Stytchkin and a potential wife. The reader never hears the potential wife’s voice which may be deliberate as Chekhov could be suggesting that women at the time the story was written (1887) did not necessarily have a voice. They married who they were told to marry without the freedom of choice. Control at all times remained with the man. Which is very much the case when it comes to the indecisive Stytchkin.
The fact that Stytchkin is in control and indecisive throughout the story may also be important as Chekhov could be attempting to mock or ridicule not only Stytchkin but men in general too. If anything Chekhov may be introducing irony into the story. Stytchkin is a man who appears to be in control of his destiny yet at the same time is unsure of which direction to take particularly when it comes to marriage. This in itself is a contradiction with the reality being that Stytchkin doesn’t know which way to turn. Something that is clearer to the reader when Stytchkin begins to court Lyubov. It would appear that Lyubov is Stytchkin’s ideal woman. However this only rings true after Stytchkin has exhausted every avenue and thought process when it comes to a wife. Which could be a point that Chekhov is attempting to make. It is possible that Chekhov is using Stytchkin as a representative of all men to highlight man’s indecisiveness when it comes to affairs of the heart and their eventual acceptance of what is nearest to hand. With women being viewed as no more than a convenience. Something to have that is close by and available. Disregarding any notion of love or affection. Suitability is not something that is considered with the woman playing an already mapped out role.
The ending of the story is also interesting as everything fits neatly into place for Stytchkin. He has his bride-elect. Though the reader is aware that at no stage does Stytchkin suggest that he loves Lyubov. If anything she is a practicality, someone who will not drain him of his finances and who still remains attractive despite her age. In Stytchkin’s eyes she is the ideal partner. The fact that love is never mentioned is also important as it would appear that Stytchkin is looking for something that is no more than an arrangement. Even when Stytchkin discusses the type of woman he is looking for he never mentions love nor does he seem to care as to whether a loving relationship develops. Again at all stages Stytchkin is being practical. It is also noticeable particularly in the last line of the story that Stytchkin has views or beliefs on what a wife’s role may be. This is also important as Stytchkin is displaying his desire to be in control of the relationship. Again the woman, in this case Lyubov, doesn’t have a voice. She is to play second fiddle to Stytchkin.