Gone Astray by Anton Chekhov
In Gone Astray by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of mistaken identity, breaking-in, confusion and hopelessness. 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 the reader realises that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of mistaken identity. Kozyavkin has mistaken his cottage. Though this does not appear to disturb him because he is so adamant that he has found his cottage. What leads is Kozyavkin breaking into the cottage. A cottage he is unfamiliar with and which should raise signs for Kozyavkin when he cannot find his way around the cottage. Nevertheless Kozyavkin believes he is in the right cottage till a woman arrives outside the cottage and wants to know what is happening. She is the rightful owner of the cottage and knows that Kozyavkin is trespassing. Something that Kozyavkin does not think he is doing. Though he is drunk and his mind is unclear as to his exact whereabouts.
To fuel Kozyavkin’s confusion he cannot remember when the chickens where in his home. Where some might suggest this should be a warning to Kozyavkin. He does not take it as one. Even the threat of the constable does not put Kozyavkin or Laev off and they still believe they are in the right cottage. Laev’s character is interesting as the reader feels as though he may suspect that he is at the wrong cottage. No one is answering their calls and Kozyavkin’s wife does not seem to be not at home. A warning sight for so late in the night. One would expect Kozyavkin’s wife to be home in the dead of the night. The fact that Kozyavkin has no matches may act as foreshadowing to the fact that he is in the wrong house. It is interesting that Laev doesn’t try and enter the cottage. This is one shining thing that perhaps he might be able to persuade the constable by. Though it is doubtful.
The fact that the constable has called is not a good sign for Kozyavkin and Laev. They are two respected lawyers but they will be on the other side of the law when the constable arrives. Their jobs may even be in jeopardy considering the story that the two have to tell. Both men being drunk doesn’t help either. The cape and portfolio that Kozyavkin leaves in the cottage could also be symbolically important. Both items belong to a man of high privilege yet they are stuck in the wrong cottage and do not necessarily have the same significance. As far as the woman of the cottage is concerned Kozyavkin and Laev are intruders. Hence her calling the constable. It will be tricky for both men to persuade the constable of their mistake. If anything there is a role reversal taking place Kozyavkin and Laev may not be considered to be lawyers but to be two petty thieves. It could very well be a case that both men are off to jail for their actions.
The end of the story is interesting as when the constable grabs Laev’s shoulder the reader is aware that this will not end well. In reality Kozyavkin and Laev will not be able to talk themselves out of what has happened. Also Kozyavkin has also disturbed the inside of the cottage, causing a mess and breaking a window at the same time. A boisterous and rowdy night in the town has resulted in mayhem for both men. Their careers are on the line and there does not seem to be away out of the predicament they have found themselves in. If one was to feel sorry for the men it is difficult to feel sorry for Kozyavkin as he has acted boisterous throughout the story. Laev on the other hand has been an unwilling co-conspirator. True he has fully adhered to his comrade’s instructions but he did not know where the instructions would lead him to. But there is little doubt that the constable will go lightly on both men.