Boys by Anton Chekhov
In Boys by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of escape, fear, connection, adventure and love. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of escape and adventure. Volodya and Lentilov want to travel to California. They believe that life will be more exciting for them and that they will be able to live as they see fit. This may be significant as both Volodya and Lentilov are still young and innocent. They do not really have the abilities required to go to America. There chest of wealth includes a knife or two and four roubles. So there plans in reality are unrealistic but this does not stop them in their pursuit of their adventure. Not even Volodya’s sick mother can stop Volodya from beginning his journey to California. Though it is noticeable that he remains torn about leaving her behind and is not necessarily upset when Lentilov’s plans prove to be fruitless.
The fact that the children (the three sisters) are so interested in Lentilov may be significant as Chekhov may be highlighting a degree of boredom in the girl’s lives. Lentilov is after all a novelty to the girls and they are mesmerised when he arrives. Giving him a reputation that he may not necessarily deserve. For there does not seem to be any redeeming qualities about Lentilov. He if anything is the true leader when it comes to him and Volodya. Volodya can hold off on going to California for that little bit longer but it is Lentilov who is in a rush. Though as readers we never learn as to why Lentilov may be so keen on departing to California. He says very little if anything about his personal life and the focus remains on how Volodya feels about his mother’s illness and how afraid he is for her. If anything Lentilov and Volodya’s flight is fantastical. There are no solid plans and they are so young that they immediately arouse suspicion when they are in town trying to buy gunpowder. Their escape and adventure is doomed from the beginning.
The setting of the story and the snow is symbolic of the innocence that has overcome both Volodya and Lentilov. Just as the snow is pure in the story so too are the boys motives. They see their plans as being one long adventure. However impractical that adventure may be. Likewise the girls are in awe of Lentilov. It is as though he is some type of exotic animal they have never seen before. Which may be Chekhov’s way of highlighting how locked up in life women of the time were as the reality is there is nothing special about Lentilov. He is even described by Chekov as being ugly but the girls see past this. They too may long to escape from their environment like the two boys. The fact that the girls consider Lentilov to be a very clever and learned person might also be significant as Chekhov could be suggesting that appearances can be deceiving.
The end of the story is also interesting as a sharp reality comes into Lentilov’s life when his mother is called to come and collect him. Any sense of escape or adventure is dashed by the mother’s appearance and it is clear that Lentilov’s relationship or connection with Volodya is to be abruptly cut off or severed. They are no longer to be friends and any plans for escape to California will have to be abandoned for the time being. The reader suspecting that both Volodya’s father and mother are happy that this is the case. They may simply view Lentilov as being a negative influence on Volodya. Though the reality is Volodya, after a little further persuasion from Lentilov, is as keen as Lentilov to go to California. In reality the story is one in whereby two young boys try to escape from their surroundings. Are influenced by the books they read and naturally want to have an adventure that matches the characters that they read about. However real life intervenes and calls a halt to their plans.