Darkness by Anton Chekhov
In Darkness by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of struggle, compassion, responsibility, class, acceptance and authority. Taken from his The Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of struggle. Kirila struggles to persuade the doctor to help him when it comes to getting Vaska out of prison. Kirila believes that as the doctor is a man with authority. He should be able to help him. However this is not the case nor is it the case that Kirila finds anybody in authority to help him. This may be significant as it is possible that Chekhov is suggesting that Vaska, or those who are imprisoned have no recourse but to serve their sentence. Whether the sentence is deserved or not and Kirila believes that Vaska’s sentence is too harsh for the crime that he committed.
It may also be important that Kirila is a peasant as there is a sense that Vaska may not necessarily have spent so long in prison should he have been a man of means. In fact the reader may suspect that Vaska may have served no time in prison should he have been able to pay for the damages he caused. Where there was a need for a little compassion. None was given most likely due to the fact that Vaska is a peasant. Kirila also relies on Vaska to work the family’s land. Though Chekhov never mentions as to why Kirila himself cannot work the land. The fact that those in authority do not help Kirila is significant as it suggests that no one is willing to take responsibility for Vaska. As far as those in authority are concerned the matter is closed and Vaska must serve his sentence. It would not be unusual for the reader to suspect that everybody is washing their hands of responsibility. When it comes to Vaska’s plight.
The fact that Kirila never gives up and returns to ask the doctor to help him may highlight just how desperate he is. Kirila can see no other way but to ask the doctor again for help, even though the doctor tells Kirila that he has not got the authority to release Vaska. In fact the doctor never really goes to any length to try and help Kirila and Vaska. Though he may not have the authority he could still see to it that Kirila’s pleas reach the relevant authority. This task is actually left to the old man. Who tells Kirila who he should be talking to. Though again Kirila’s pleas fall on deaf ears. Another interesting thing about the story is the fact that Kirila cannot let go of his brother and accept that he must serve his prison sentence in full. This may suggest that Kirila is not only desperate to help his brother but he is also, admirably, not forgetting about him. Where some siblings might not be close Kirila appears to be close to Vaska.
The end of the story is also interesting as when the doctor walks away from Kirila there is a sense that Kirila will have no option but to accept the circumstances he finds himself in. Circumstance that the reader is fully aware are due to Kirila’s social position. As a peasant Kirila appears to have no influence on those in authority. In fact none of those that Kirila has asked to help him, have been helpful. If anything Kirila has been ignored by those in authority. It may also be important to remember that Kirila is not suggesting that Vaska is an innocent man. He simply is querying the length of time that Vaska must spend in prison. He feels as though Vaska’s sentence has been too harsh for the crime that Vaska has committed. Also Vaska was not in the right frame of mind, he was drunk, when he committed the crime. Though this is not something that those in authority are sympathetic to. If the reader is to take one lesson from the story it might be the fact that a person’s social class can determine the course of an individual’s life.