The Chorus Girl by Anton Chekhov
In The Chorus Girl by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of adultery, identity, remorse, desperation, independence, trust, guilt and loneliness. 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 is not only exploring the theme of adultery but the theme of desperation too. Pasha has conducted an affair with a married man (Kolpakov) and it is only when Kolpakov’s wife confronts Pasha that the reader gets a sense of just how desperate Kolpakov’s wife is. She knows that the police are looking to arrest Kolpakov but she also knows that she has the opportunity of refunding the nine hundred roubles that Kolpakov has stolen from his job. Rather than tackle Pasha over the affair as many would expect Kolpakov’s wife to do. Kolpakov’s wife attempts and succeeds in pleading with Pasha to give her objects of value that she can resell. So that she can reimburse Kolpakov’s employer. Though Pasha denies knowing Kolpakov at first. Eventually she admits her role in the affair and gives nine hundred roubles worth of jewellery to Kolpakov’s wife. The reader is also aware that the guilt that Pasha feels is directed towards Kolpakov’s children. She does not wish to see them go hungry.
At no stage does the reader sense that Pasha feels guilty over conducting an affair with a married man. As far as Pasha may be concerned Kolpakov is old enough to make up his own mind about whether he should see her romantically or not. This might be important as morally some readers might suggest that Pasha is corrupt (as too is Kolpakov). However it is possible that Chekhov is suggesting that Pasha is a free and independent woman who has no obligation to Kolpakov’s wife. Kolpakov has been a willing respondent (or perpetrator) in his liaison with Pasha. It is also obvious that Pasha likes Kolpakov’s company having spent an entire month with him. This too could be important as it is possible that Pasha longs for the comfort of a man (any man). She may in fact be lonely or at least feel as though her life is hollow. The fact that Pasha is a chorus girl, playing a role in a theatre, could also be important. Chekhov might be suggesting that Pasha may not necessarily know who she is. Though it is clear she is an object of desire for many male admirers.
What is also interesting about the story is the feelings of worry or anxiety that Kolpakov’s wife has. She does not resent Pasha. As one would expect her to. Instead her primary concern is her children. In many ways Kolpakov’s wife knows who she is. She might be married to a man who is conducting an affair but her primary role and the role she most identifies with is that of being a mother. In many ways Kolpakov’s wife is different to Pasha who as mentioned may not really know who she is and who seems dependent on male suitors to make herself feel good. The fact that Pasha doesn’t feel as respectable as Kolpakov’s wife because unlike Kolpakov’s wife she is not wearing make-up is also interesting. As the reader senses that Pasha uses make-up in order to give an impression to others that she is a different person. In reality to hide who she is. Which would play on the theme of identity again.
The end of the story is also interesting as Kolpakov on hearing everything that his wife has said begins to understand that his wife is a better woman than Pasha. Though as to whether the reader agrees with this is an entirely different matter. Pasha should not be judged solely on the fact that she has had an affair with Kolpakov. If anything she should be judged upon her admission of the affair and her desire, though pushed, to rectify matters as quickly as possible. Though it may be true that Pasha scorns Kolpakov for not giving her gifts. This is something that is borne out of anger. She has found herself in the middle of a problem that she does not really consider herself to be part of and has had to give away all her jewellery. The guilty party in the story is Kolpakov. Not only has he cheated on his wife but on hearing what she has said Kolpakov begins to feel remorse for his actions towards his wife. As for his employer Kolpakov feels nothing and as for what he has spent the money on is hard to say. Though one thing is sure he will attempt to return to his wife. Looking for forgiveness yet never fully taking responsibility for his actions. If anything Kolpakov can’t be trusted. It has taken a strong woman (Kolpakov’ wife) to get Kolpakov out of a hole. While Pasha is left to wonder as to why she has such bad luck with men. It doesn’t dawn on Pasha that the men who have been in her life or who will be in her life are only using her for their own benefit. Something that Kolpakov is guilty of.