The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekhov
In The Lottery Ticket by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of hope, aspiration, selfishness, power, greed, control, freedom and satisfaction. 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 the reader realises that Chekhov may be exploring the theme of hope and aspiration. Both Ivan and his wife have aspirations to better their lives and see the possibility of winning the lottery as the avenue to a better way of life. However it is interesting that both dream individual dreams about what they would do if they won the lottery. From being a comfortably well-off middle class family the reader senses that both Ivan and his wife are stricken by very human emotions. They both forget where they are in life and rather than accept their position and be happy. A sense of greed enters their lives. Ivan imagines himself to be something that he is not with unrealistic dreams of owning a large estate where he is master. If anything Ivan lets his imagination run wild without any due consideration for his wife. Which may suggest that the reality is that Ivan’s marriage may not be a happy one. Something that becomes clearer to the reader at the end of the story. Ivan thinks only of himself when he imagines what life would be like should his wife win the lottery. He takes complete control of the situation.
It is also interesting that Ivan sees himself as being more important than he is. As Master of an estate he imagines himself to have great power though it is noticeable that the power he believes he will have is not something that will benefit others. Ivan is thinking selfishly and only of himself. Something that is further noticeable when he decides he would prefer to travel alone should he win the lottery rather than being hindered by his wife’s presence. If anything there is a sense that Ivan is acting as though he is the most important person in his relationship with his family. Again no real thought is given to any of his family. Ivan remains again in total control of the situation. Though ironically he is also aware that the lottery ticket is in his wife’s name and not his. Which leads to Ivan feeling angry and frustrated. It is as though he is aware that his wife will not have the same aspirations as he does and she will instead live her life as she wants to without any direct input from Ivan. In essence Ivan may realise that he has no control over the situation despite building dreams in his head.
How selfish Ivan really is also noticeable by the fact that when it comes to his desires to travel not only does he want to do so without being hindered by his wife but he wants to leave his children behind as well. It is as though Ivan views the lottery winnings as a route to freedom from his family. No longer will he have to be there beside them. Which suggests that the reality is that Ivan may not be a good father. His primary concern throughout the story is himself with his family being considered as only an afterthought. This may be important as Chekhov may be suggesting that money, particularly large sums of money, can change an individual. With them thinking only of themselves and no one else. Which is very much the case in the story when it comes to Ivan’s train of thought. He gives no consideration to his family. They are distanced from him.
The end of the story is also interesting as Chekhov appears to be exploring the theme of satisfaction. Ivan after his train of thought concludes that he will be ostracized by his wife should she win the lottery is completely satisfied that she has not won. He regains control from his wife. Which may be important as Chekhov may be suggesting that the reality at the time the story was written was that most men had control over their wives. Women may not necessarily have been treated equally. Something that is obvious to the reader by the actions (and thoughts) of Ivan when it comes to the reality that the lottery ticket is not his. He knows that his wife will spend any money she has won as she sees fit rather than pursuing the hopes and aspirations that Ivan has. The fact that Ivan also complains about the condition of his home at the end of the story may also be important as he is placing an onus on his wife to clean the house. He is exerting control over his wife. Judging it to be her responsibility for the upkeep of the family home. From being a content man at the beginning of the story Ivan has become dissatisfied with his way of life and the way that his wife runs the family home. This dissatisfaction triggered by Ivan’s assumption that his wife will not allow him to live the life he wants to live should they have won the lottery. Though Ivan is controlling his environment it is also true to say that he does not like being controlled himself.