Jackson Weeks Harold English 101 1-31-13 Chekhov’s Use of Futliarnost to Develop Yakov and the Importance of Morals in “Rothschild’s Fiddle” Futliarnost, a Russian literature theme which is often present in Anton Chekhov’s short stories, is when a character is encased in a situation and can not escape. In “Rothschild’s Fiddle”, Yakov is entrapped in an almost trance like state, that is brought about by loss and remorse in his life. “Is Yakov ever released from this state, through Marfa’s death, or any other instance and does Chekhov intend for the reader to see one single moral in this story? Chekhov uses irony and ambiguity to develop Yakov “Rothschild’s Fiddle” into a deeper character as well. Chekhov uses one particular irony which is central to this short story. Yakov is evidently depressed for much if not all of his life, as he is always worrying about his income and his wasted opportunities in life. But ironically he is arguably more depressed and miserable after he realizes how meaningless his whole life has been. It is at this point when he is finally more alive than he has ever been, but because he is looking back on his life he wants to die more than ever.
Yakov “reflected that death would be nothing but a benefit; he would not have to eat or drink, or pay taxes or offend people, and, as a man lies in his grave not for one year but for hundreds and thousands, if one reckoned it up the gain would be enormous. A man’s life meant loss: death meant gain. ” With this realization it can be said that Yakov only becomes more depressed. This is sad to see because as a reader we finally see someone that finally has much about life figured out, but it is in his last moments, and he is more miserable than ever.
Chekhov Weeks 2 uses this passage to help develop the sense of futliarnost even more than it already is. Yakov was already trapped in a state of depression, knowingly or not, and when he finally realizes this at the end of his life he only becomes more depressed. The change that comes about because of this further misery is negative, as Yakov finally realizes many, if not all, of his faults in life yet he is at a point in his life where he can no longer change his ways enough to make up for all of his past mistakes.
This is the point in which a moral can be deduced. Perhaps a moral of live life so that you have no regrets would be appropriate. But we must ask ourselves if Chekhov meant for a moral to be brought away from “Rothschild’s Fiddle”. Based on the writing style it is safe to assume that a moral is applicable. Chekhov gives “Rothschild’s Fiddle” folk like qualities which suggest there is a moral. Although this moral is very cliched, it certainly applies to Yakov. It is not saying live life with no regrets, rather live life so that you will have no regrets.
If Yakov had treated Marfa better and not yelled at her and not caused her pain he likely would not have been as miserable in the end as he was. But it is also worth noting that some of the most beautiful music came about because of one mans suffering, and made many other lives better. Chekhov is intentionally ambiguous here, as he likely does not mean to only teach one lesson through this story. There are many lessons that can be taken away, and this is one of the beautiful things about Chekhov’s writings, especially “Rothschild’s Fiddle”.
Etymologically, the word ‘ambiguity’ means being able to push something from both ends [ambo-ago] and also, figuratively, to think about something in two different and even irreconcilable ways (Pazzagli 1505). Chekhov has many ambiguities in his writings in order to leave much interpretation up to the reader. The reader must decide whether to accept both meanings of a statement or choose between the two. Based on which approach a reader uses, the Weeks 3 same passage can have completely different meanings. One example of this ambiguity comes when Marfa dies.
Chekhov writes that her face turned “rosy with fever, unusually bright and joyful-looking” In this excerpt Chekhov states that Marfa is sick, and also that she was joyful. Perhaps she was just rosy from the fever, or more likely just relieved that she was finally going to be released from her dreary life of being frightened by Yakov, mistreated, and not appreciated. Even though Marfa only has a small presence in the text, she is a great tool for Chekhov. She is used to bring up Yakov’s past. Marfa says “Do you remember fifty years ago God gave us a little baby with flaxen hair?
We used always to be sitting by the river then, singing songs . . . under the willows,” and laughing bitterly, she added: “The baby girl died. ” Yakov did not remember his baby from years ago. Yakov had shut out most of his past, and only thought of profit and losses. However when Yakov later goes and sits beneath the tree and finally remembers their child, the reader is not ever sure as to whether he actually remembers the child, or if it is just a figment of his imagination. Another ambiguity is when Yakov leaves the cemetary after Marfa’s burial it is said that he didn’t feel well.
However it is never clarified if he is physically ill, or emotionally ill. If Yakov is only emotionally ill and ends up dying from this it would indicate that Yakov is much more deeply connected to Marfa than has previously been shown. This would perpetuate the theme of loss, because if he was extremely close to his wife, then her loss is only that much more painful to him. Loss is surely the main recurring theme throughout “Rothschild’s Fiddle”. Yakov in the beginning is complaining about lost profits, and lost work time, which in hindsight seem petty, compared to the loss of his wife, and the loss of the memory of his child.
After Yakov’s epiphany it is apparent that he has felt remorse over the loss of the wrong things. If he had not been so interested in money he might have spent more time with his wife, and treated better, and he would Weeks 4 have perhaps had a better relationship with her. Chekhov is said to be the father of the stream of conscious writing style, which follows a character’s thoughts. With Yakov this becomes particularly interesting after the death of Marfa because we see just how miserable his life becomes.
We see Yakov sitting on the riverbank, beneath the tree just thinking back on his missed opportunities and his lost and forgotten child. Later we see just how sorrowful Yakov has become, when he is just sitting in his doorway playing his fiddle, producing mournful tunes. The stream of consciousness writing style also puts emphasis on the change that takes place in Yakov. The reader sees how Yakov transforms from miserable because of his own losses, to miserable because of the loss of others. Yakov follows the pattern that many of Chekhov’s characters set before him, by bringing attention to Russia’s changing landscape.
One thing that Chekhov shows subtly in most of his works was his appreciation of Russia’s natural environment (Quinault 33). Chekhov voiced his sadness at the destruction of ancient hardwood forests in his short story, “Rothschild’s Fiddle” (1894) and, more prominently, in his major plays. (Quinalt 33). In “Rothschild’s Fiddle” Chekhov writes “On the other bank, where now there was the water meadow, in those days there stood a big birchwood, and yonder on the bare hillside that could be seen on the horizon an old, old pine forest used to be a bluish patch in the distance.
Big boats used to sail on the river. But now it was all smooth and unruffled, and on the other bank there stood now only one birch-tree, youthful and slender like a young lady. ” Even though this is only a small part of “Rothschild’s Fiddle” it shows some of Chekhov’s interests outside of literature. Perhaps Yakov realizes the loss of this forest and this is just one more loss to go along with all of the other losses that have happened throughout the story. Yakov is in a depressed state throughout the story, both before Marfa’s death and after. Weeks 5
Even though her death was the big event of the story and what made Yakov realize how miserable his life had been, it still was not enough to release him from the feeling of misery he was trapped in. It was just enough for him to realize how miserable his life had been before and send him deeper into depression because he realized he had lost Marfa, who was the one thing in his life he truly should have cared about. The significance of drawing this conclusion is that we see Chekhov following his usual pattern of a character being entrapped for the whole story, and still not escaping.
One ambiguity that the reader is left with is that of whether a moral can should be deduced. Since Yakov produced some of the most beautiful and sad music. Even though Yakov was in such a miserable state his whole life, his music was beautiful and brightened other lives, It can be argued that no moral was meant to be drawn from “Rothschild’s Fiddle”. Perhaps one could go on to research Chekhov as a writer and see if he typically consciously included some style of moral in his stories. Weeks 6 Works Cited Pazzagali, Adolfo. “Ambiguity. ” International Journal of Psychoanalysis . 3. 6 (2012): 1505-1508. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. Quinalt, Roland. “Chekhov and Conservation. ” History Today. 60. 2 (2010): 32-34. Web. Chekhov, Anton. “The Literature Network. ” Rothschild’s Fiddle. N. p. , 10 Mar 2005. Web. 4 Feb 2013. Note: I still do not have Microsoft Word and I attempted to indent my long quotes 10 spaces on GoogleDocs but I was not able to without indenting the whole paragraph that the quote was contained in. This is why I left quotations around my quotes.. If you must take off for this I understand, but if you could be a little lenient that would be great!
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