The Schoolmaster by Anton Chekhov
In The Schoolmaster by Anton Chekhov we have the theme of dedication, commitment, struggle, denial, selflessness, anger and pity. 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 may be exploring the theme of dedication. Fyodor Lukitch never forgets about any of his pupils or the mistreatment that might have been brought upon them by others. While at the dinner he reprimands Lyapunov for his dictation which he blames on forcing Babkin to make three mistakes. This may be important as despite each child in the school doing well in their examinations Fyodor Lukitch can’t let go of the incident with Lyapunov which suggests that not only is he dedicated to his students but he also believes in fairness. Something that is also noticeable when he accuses Father Nikolay of talking in riddles which makes things more difficult for his students. Overall out of all the teachers mentioned in the story Fyodor Lukitch appears to be the only one who truly cares about how his students perform. He is a natural and dedicated teacher while his colleagues appear to only consider teaching to be no more than a job. A tool to help them through life. Out of all the teachers at the dinner Fyodor Lukitch is the only one who shows any concern for his pupils. They are his number one priority.
So dedicated is Fyodor Lukitch that he becomes angry and is unable to let go of what has happened some of his pupils. Throughout the dinner the anger festers within Fyodor Lukitch to the point where he is unable to really express himself in the clearest of manners. Something that is noticeable when he makes his speech. Though some critics might suggest that Fyodor Lukitch is being bitter when he is giving his speech it is more likely that he feels the pain of knowing that his students have not been treated correctly. Which would play not only on the theme of dedication but would also bring in a sense of honesty. Fyodor is speaking his mind and talking as he sees things. His number one priority again is his students. It is also interesting that Fyodor Lukitch speaks affectionately about his students. Something that is noticeable when he calls Babkin ‘My Babkin’. This may be important as it suggests that Fyodor Lukitch is committed to his students. Again he cannot let go of what has happened them during the examinations.
There is also a sense that though Fyodor Lukitch’s colleagues praise him for his efforts they might also pity him considering the physical condition he is in. Out of everyone in the story Fyodor Lukitch is the only one who does not realise how sick he actually is. The reader has their suspicions particularly when it becomes clear that Fyodor Lukitch has difficulty putting on his boots and ends up sitting on the steps coughing later on in the story. If anything Fyodor Lukitch may be so preoccupied with his teaching that he is in denial about the decline of his physical health. He cannot see past the anger he has over the treatment of his students. Which may be important as it suggests that though Fyodor Lukitch is seriously ill he has a strong drive within himself to see that right is done. Rather than being preoccupied with his health Fyodor Lukitch is acting selflessly. Putting his students first. It may also be a case that Fyodor Lukitch is too honest for his colleagues. Which again shows a true drive and determination within Fyodor Lukitch.
The end of the story is also interesting as the reader gets to see again just how committed and dedicated Fyodor Lukitch actually is. After the dinner is over Fyodor Lukitch rather than retiring for the evening sits down to marvel at some of his student’s homework. This may be important as it shows again a drive or focus within Fyodor Lukitch. It may also be irrelevant that Fyodor Lukitch is unaware that he only has a week to live as the reader suspects that he may not change his routine if he were aware of how close he is to dying. At no stage in the story has Fyodor Lukitch thought about himself. Which again suggests that he is selfless. His real love in life is teaching and getting the most out of his students. He is a committed, dedicated schoolmaster who strives to see that his students have a level playing field. Without having to endure the nonsensical riddles of Father Nikolay or the error prone teachings of other teachers. Fyodor Lukitch stands alone in the story. Driven and determined to make sure that his students get the best possible teaching. His main goal has been to see that his students not only are treated fairly but are given every possible opportunity to improve their lives. Fyodor Lukitch’s world is a world in whereby the student comes first and the teacher is no more than an instrument to help the student reach the goal of having received a good education. He is an individual that can not only teach a child but can also teach his colleagues on how best to educate someone.