Frost by Anton Chekhov
In Frost by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of control, helplessness, class, charity, selfishness and greed. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of control. The local fête is due to take place yet the weather is uncontrollable. It is windy and frost has settled and at one stage some of the residents feel as though they as so helpless that they think about cancelling the fête. However through sheer determination the fête goes ahead much to the delight of everybody. That is everybody who is not in the pavilion. What is also interesting about those in the pavilion is the fact that they are all upper class members of the town. They do not mix with others outside their class. This could be significant as Chekhov could be suggesting that the town is divided by class. However there is a noticeable redemptive quality in the story when the governor offers the policeman a glass of wine and lets it be known that he wants the musicians, who are freezing, to have wine too.
What is also interesting is the story that Yegor tells. It is a rather long story and at no stage does anyone intervene or make inquires when he is telling the story. This may be significant as it is possible that nobody in the pavilion is listening to Yegor tell his story. The courtesy he has paid the governor when he was telling his story is not repaid by the governor. If anything the governor though charitable may also have a streak of selfishness within him. The pavilion as an example is for a select few (upper classes). It would appear that one has to be invited into the pavilion by the governor. Apart from the two schoolboys ice-skating there are no other likeable characters in the story. Which may be the point that Chekhov is attempting to make. Despite the charity of the governor Chekhov may want the reader to focus on what the governor and this friends don’t do. If anything Chekhov may be placing an emphasis on how selfish the governor and his friends are. Once they are content they do not really have a concern for others. The reader aware that the pavilion could have housed more people. Taking them out from the cold and frost.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which is important. The mulled wine, especially the quantities, could be seen to symbolize the greed of the governor. He may eventually share it with others but his main priority is to satisfy himself and his friends. The two boys skating might also be symbolically significant as they are majestic on the ice and are not affected by the cold. It is possible that Chekhov is affording the two boys the majesty of youth. When one is strong and able. Unlike the governor and his friends in the pavilion. The frost itself, which is frozen might symbolise the paralysis that faces the governor and his friends. They do not see anything wrong in what they are doing and as such will not change.
The end of the story is interesting as the party breaks up with the women returning home. This too may be significant as the governor’s wife may not feel comfortable in the pavilion. Though this is something that the governor is blind too. Which may leave some readers to suggest again that the governor is acting selfishly. Apart from the band, the policeman and his friends the governor does not give a second thought to the other people at the fête. Those of a lower class than him are forgotten about. This would also compound the fact that the governor may be a selfish man. He has his wine and companionship and this is all that matters to him. With the exception of giving the band and policeman some wine the governor has not thought about anyone else. Even the policeman had to tell him that his wife had gone home. She may very well understand just how selfish the governor is. The governor plays to a crowd and tries to please a crowd with his wit and charm. Yet he remains select on who he will engage with. Rather than giving free wine to everyone at the fête the governor chooses to give it to those who are amusing him. The most important person in the governor’s life is himself and not those he has a legal obligation to.