In Passion Week by Anton Chekhov
In the short story In Passion Week by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of order, fear, escape, connection, innocence and conflict. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an eight year old boy called Fedya and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of connection. Fedya notices the two young boys riding on the back of the cabman’s cab. He wants to join them but is afraid. He has to go to confession and he knows that this is the most important thing for him to do. What trigger’s Fedya’s compulsion to go to funeral is his mother. This may be significant as Chekhov may be suggesting that Fedya has order in his life. He is under instruction but does not mind. Confession is an important part of Fedya’s life. In fact Fedya may be afraid if he does not go to confession and confess his sins to the priest.
Fedya is also seen to mentally reach out to others as though he wishes he could be like them. This is particularly noticeable on two separate occasions in the story. Firstly (as mentioned) Fedya wants to be like the two young boys and secondly when he notices the man’s galoshes. He wants to have ones just like them when he grows up. This may be significant as Fedya at the time is in fear and his mind may be trying to escape the thoughts of confession and sins. He knows he has sinned but just doesn’t know how much the priest will punish him by. That is how Fedya is feeling. He feels as though he has sinned and that he will be punished by the priest. However this does not happen to Fedya who leaves the confessional with a smile on his face. His sins have been absolved.
There may be some symbolism in the story that might be important. Chekhov appears to be using the setting to define Fedya’s mood. This occurs when Fedya enters the church. There is no light shining into the church and it is dark. Mirroring Fedya’s mood. Also Chekhov uses colour in the second paragraph of the story as foreshadowing. He moves from white, to transparent, to brown. Leaving the colour to again define Fedya. He is a young innocent (white) boy who sees life as he sees it (transparent) with no complications. Then when the colour turns to brown Fedya is feeling guilty. Life is not as clear to him as it once was. Which is understandable for a young boy who is going to confession to confess his sins. The introduction of the man and woman in the story may be so because Chekhov not only wants to highlight how Fedya has the ability to connect with others but to also highlight Fedya’s aspirations. If anything Fedya may feel as though he is falling in love with the woman and wanting to be the man.
There is also a degree of internal and external conflict in the story. Fedya is in conflict with himself because he knows he has sinned, if a young boy can sin, and he knows or feels as though the priest will give him a severe grilling or penance. The external conflict occurs when Mitka hits Fedya. It is another child’s way of answering a problem he feels he may have encountered. Also Fedya gives Mitka a back handed compliment when he comments on how Mitka is dressed. Mitka ends up shaking his fist at Fedya who wisely backs away and continues his journey through the church to the choir. Overall the story tells of a boy in conflict with himself and others and how important religion or confession is to a person. Fedya may have well abandoned confession if it had not been for his mother. However he manages to go to confession, feels cleansed, and wants to continue his life in a pure way. Something which leaves the reader understanding just how innocent young Fedya is. An innocent who many people reading the story might envy.