Polinka by Anton Chekhov
In Polinka by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of love, sadness, confusion and grief. Taken from his The Collected 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 love. Nikolay is very much in love with Polinka and does not see what she sees in the student. He knows that he will discard her and make a fool of her around his friends but there is noting that Nikolay can do to persuade Polinka to forgo her love of the student. Nikolay also doesn’t feel as though he is good enough for Polinka. As a clothes seller he knows he cannot offer Polinka what the student can offer her. However this does not stop Nikolay from offering his love to Polinka. Though it appears to fall on deaf ears. Making Nikolay sad and angry. He knows his lowly position is all that is stopping Polinka from falling in love with him.
Polinka also appears to be swayed by the student’s character and the opportunities he will give her in life. This may be significant Chekhov may be suggesting that Polinka, due to her youthful age, is swayed by material gain. There is no doubting that she would live a more comfortable life with the student but would she truly be in love with him? Whereas Nikolay appears to be devoting his life to Polinka. It may also be a case that Chekhov is highlighting the ability for Polinka to choose who she wishes to marry. That she is a free woman in a world where women did not have many rights. Particularly the right to choose their own husband. Despite the fact that Polinka loves the student she is still nonetheless sad. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Polinka wants to marry Nikolay but due to his circumstances she cannot. He is merely a trader in the market. Not necessarily poor but at the same time not rich either.
It is difficult to say as to whether Polinka would be happy with Nikolay but she does have a good rapport with him and they are on very friendly terms. It is as though Nikolay can read Polinka’s mind and knows exactly what she wants. Except when it comes to the possibility of Polinka wanting to marry Nikolay. He is too angry and blind to see past the student’s love for Polinka. The fact that the student doesn’t appear in the story or if he does it is only briefly when Nikolay sees him talking to Polinka, could be important. As Chekhov is putting some distance between the student and Polinka. A distance that may suggest all is not well between the student and Polinka. The student may not necessarily love Polinka and may address all beautiful women in the same manner.
The end of the story is interesting as the reader gets the sense that all is not well with Polinka. Her tears are not necessarily for the student but they could be for Nikolay. If this is the case Polinka may be crying because she knows that she may never marry Nikolay. She can’t due to her position in society. If this is the case that Polinka is to marry the student and be no more than a pretty sidekick for him. He will not introduce her to his friends because she lacks an education and this may be something that upsets the student. He can have a pretty lady on his arm but she cannot converse with her and his friends. All of which Nikolay knows and the reader suspects Polinka knows to but she appears to have no option but to marry the student. It will advance her position in the world and the student will be able to provide her with comforts that Nikolay may not be able to do so. However it is clear that Polinka will not be happy in her marriage to the student but nonetheless she will marry him and forgo any type of happiness with the man who truly loves her, Nikolay. There are two losers in the story both Polinka and Nikolay.