Hush by Anton Chekhov
In Hush! by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of dedication, sacrifice, fear, frustration, selfishness, aspirations, writing and control. 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 dedication. Rather than going to bed Ivan decides that he needs to write. He forgets about sleep and beings the process of writing. Sitting down at his desk and thinking of what he should write. Ivan’s desk is also interesting as though it may seem to be cluttered everything on the desk is writing related. Though one object in particular may be important. The newspaper with the word ‘disgraceful’ written on a section of it. It is possible that Ivan’s editor has written this note on the paper to comment on the quality of Ivan’s work. That along with the fact that the reader is also aware that Ivan is a mediocre journalist suggests that writing may not necessarily be the profession for Ivan. He also finds it difficult to begin the writing process which is interesting as Chekhov may be suggesting or highlighting to the reader just how difficult some writers might find the writing process. Rather than being able to sit down and immediately begin writing there is a sense that Ivan is torturing himself in the hopes that he will be able to write something. Though the reality may be that Ivan has nothing to write. It is also noticeable that the process of writing for Ivan is a solitary and silent affair. He needs to be able to think in peace while trying to write. If anything he is sensitive to any noise that is coming from the house and as such his mood begins to change to one of frustration.
There is also a sense that Ivan is making a sacrifice in order to be able to write. While most fathers would spend time with their children or their wife when they return from work. Ivan doesn’t. He immediately throws himself into his writing. It is also noticeable that Ivan is reliant on others throughout the story particularly his wife. Though some critics may suggest that this is part of the writing process, being reliant on others to assist you or allow you the time to write, it is also possible that Ivan is acting selfishly. Choosing his time when he wishes to write and making sure that he is also fed by his wife despite the fact that she is sleeping in bed. It would appear that Ivan’s clock is not working off the same time as the other members of his family. Which may be the point that Chekhov is making. He may be suggesting that a writer needs to write when he feels the urge to do so rather than working off a clock.
The title of the story is also interesting as Chekhov may be using the word hush to highlight to the reader the silence that is needed when an individual is writing. In order for the writer to be able to concentrate on their writing it is most likely that the need to be surrounded by quiet. Something that is not happening for Ivan. Throughout the story there is a sense that Ivan is disappointed by the fact that he is unable to have quiet. Though it might also be important to remember that Ivan is expecting everybody to work around him on his time and terms. Which would play on the theme of selfishness again. If the story is taken to be a snapshot of Ivan’s day then it becomes clear to the reader that Ivan is very much obsessed with his writing. It takes precedence over everything else including family. Which may be the point that Chekhov is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that in order to succeed in writing the writer must be obsessive about their writing. Disregarding without care everything else.
The end of the story is also interesting as Chekhov appears to be exploring the theme of aspirations. Through his writing Ivan wishes to better himself. Despite all the effort he puts into his writing much of which is fruitless he has no intention of stopping writing. It is also noticeable that Ivan has been the one who is in complete control of his environment. The pen may not flow as he would like it to but when it comes to his surroundings Ivan is the master. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when we discover that should Ivan be woken by others there will be a price to pay. Even in sleep Ivan is able to instill fear into others. All for the sake of his writing which throughout the story Ivan has remained dedicated to. Notably at the expense of others. Though all he has produced in the hours he spent trying to write was a title. Such is the sacrifice that Ivan is prepared to make he will be tyrannical towards others should he need to in order to continue writing. The number one objective in Ivan’s life is not his family or his job but his desire to be able to write. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of the writing process. So dedicated is Ivan that he does not appear to realise that he may be losing out in other areas of his life (with his family). However it is also possible that for Ivan writing is not only his main goal but his life too.