In A Hotel by Anton Chekhov
In the short story In A Hotel by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of hostility, powerlessness, class, marriage, appearance, change and redemption. 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 it becomes clear to the reader that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of hostility. Madame Nashatyrin is complaining to the hotel-keeper about Kikin. She believes his manner has a lot to be desired and that he is too rowdy and rude to be a patron of the hotel. If anything Madame Nashatyrin wants Kikin expelled from the hotel. However the hotel-keeper is powerless to act. The hotel is already owed three months money and the hotel-keeper knows that by throwing Kikin out of the hotel. The hotel will never get its money. There is also a sense that despite complaining Madame Nashatyrin is also powerless to do anything when it comes to Kikin.
However what is interesting is that on discovering that Kikin is a gentleman. Madame Nashatyrin considers to herself that perhaps one of her daughters might be suitable to courtship or possible marriage to Kikin. Gone is Madame Nashatyrin’s scorn instead it is replaced with a keen liking for Kikin. This may be significant as it is possible that Chekhov is highlighting that Madame Nashatyrin has another motive for her interest in Kikin. No longer does she scorn him but sees the possibility for redemption. Something that the reader themselves is not too certain is possible when it comes to Kikin. From Madame Nashatyrin’s conversation with the hotel-keeper it does not seem possible that Kikin could change. He likes to drink, gamble and fight and is not really someone that a mother should consider to be marriage material for one of their daughters.
The reader is also certain that Madame Nashatyrin’s change of mind is driven by the fact that Kikin is a gentleman. He is an ideal person in the Madame’s eyes to elevate one of her daughters through marriage. This may be significant as it would seem that appearances are important to Madame Nashatyrin. She is prepared to forgive Kikin his bad side in order to marry her daughter off to a gentleman. Even though Kikin does not show any gentlemanly traits throughout the story. It may also be possible that Madame Nashatyrin is a snob considering herself to be above others. She is after all introduced to the reader as the colonel’s wife or lady. The narrator somewhat placing her above others by giving Madame Nashatyrin her husband’s title. A raise in character that Madame Nashatyrin is sure to improve of.
It may also be important that the hotel-keeper admits powerlessness so early in the story as in some ways he may be accepting of Kikin’s behaviour. Should the hotel be prepared to take the loss in earnings they could easily rid themselves of Kikin. They could simply throw him out and refuse to allow him back into the hotel. Though there may also be a downside to this action considering that Kikin likes to fight. The end of the story is also interesting as the reader gets to see just how dramatic Madame Nashatyrin’s change of mind is. Again based solely on the proposition that Kikin is a gentleman. Which may leave some reader to question Madame Nashatyrin’s charge of her daughters. She may or at least does not seem to be particularly concerned about Kikin’s ways now that she knows he is a gentleman. Throughout the story Madame Nashatyrin has put herself in front of others. Firstly with her attempt to remove Kikin from the hotel and then on discovering Kikin is a gentleman she is prepared to put one of her daughters through the mayhem which would be marriage to Kikin.