The Lion and the Sun by Anton Chekhov
In The Lion and the Sun by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of self-importance, appearance, selfishness and satisfaction. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of self-importance. Stepan longs for a brooch that shows a lion and the sun and feels as though Rahat-Helam will be able to help him acquire this brooch. The only reason that Stepan wants the brooch is for appearance and to be unlike others. If anything Stepan is trying to raise his own self-esteem. To make himself more important than he is. It is as though Stepan allows for the role of Mayor to go to his head. At no stage in the story does he actually do anything for the town. Dinning instead with Rahat-Helam. Which may lead some readers to suggest that Stepan is a selfish man with his own interests in mind. Stepan even goes as far as trying to get the fire brigade band to play songs for him when he is entertaining Rahat-Helam. The reader aware that he is doing so in order to portray a degree of importance. When the reality is Stepan is no more than the Mayor of a small town in whereby very few people pay him any interest and do not take him seriously.
There is also a degree of mystery behind Rahat-Helam. He may not necessarily be all that he seems. He is not rich, speaks no foreign languages and the reality could be that he is no more than a travelling salesman. This however does not stop Stepan from pursing a lion and sun brooch from Rahat-Helam. For Stepan this is the most important thing in the world and he views having such a brooch as a badge of honour. Though he himself has done nothing to achieve this honour. Leaving readers to suggest that Stepan is Mayor in name only. There is no mention of his efforts benefiting the town. Yet it is noticeable that the town people accept him for who he is. A man of elevated status who does not necessarily deserve this elevation. Even his clerks play a trick on him such is their disregard for him.
In fact so full of his own self-importance is Stepan that he spends all his time with Rahat-Helam. Any state business is put to one side and Stepan entertains to the point of drunkenness. If anything Stepan leaves the running of the city to his clerks so fixated is he on getting the brooch. The brooch itself is important as Stepan believes it will show him to be a greater man than he is (in his eyes). People will respect him and he will feel satisfied that he is now a man of greater importance. Though he again does nothing to achieve importance apart from dining and drinking with Rahat-Helam. Who may or may not be who he says he is. There is a issue of identity as Stepan believes Rahat-Helam is a Persian prince based solely on information he has received from one of his clerks. If anything Rahat-Helam may be an imposter posing as a Persian prince. One after all would expect a Persian prince to be educated in many languages and Rahat-Helam isn’t.
The end of the story is interesting as Stepan is briefly satisfied with his brooch but in time he longs for another brooch. One that is more distinguishable and will set him aside from the others in the village. At no stage has Stepan taking his role of Mayor seriously. It is a job with perks for him. Perks that he likes very much and is not prepared to give up. No matter how ridiculous he may seem with all his brooches. Appearance rather than substance is more important to Stepan. He can walk around town with his head held high but the reader suspects that others are laughing at him and his obsession with brooches. In reality the most important thing to Stepan is not the town where he is Mayor but what others think about him. He wishes to be seen in a favourable and authoritative light.