This chapter examines the tension between involvement and withdrawal that characterized so much of Anton Chekhov's life and work, as well as the milieu in which he lived and the way he positioned himself in relation to friends, family, and reading public. Chekhov often felt trapped in the company of other people, but boredom and feelings of exclusion became equally oppressive once he was alone. “Freedom, complete and absolute freedom,” was the supreme value, something the author never tired of repeating. The chapter analyzes some of Chekhov's short stories, including “A Blunder,” “A Misfortune,” “Grisha,” and “The Robbers.” In all these stories the decision to love, whether it be marriage or an affair, is always an error and always leads to a prison from which there is no safe escape; yet love is powerfully seductive and life a prison of boredom without it.
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