Reversal of roles in Anton Chekhov’s Heartache

Antony Chekov was one of the greatest short story writers in Russian literature. He had the gift of presenting an ordinary event in a very extraordinary way. Heartache is perhaps such kind of a story in which Chekhov has presented a very ordinary story from everyday life in a very powerful way. While doing it he has used reversal of role among human and animal and this way readers can practically rethink about an ordinary event in the life of an ordinary man.

After the death of the son of Iona Potapov, he broke down emotionally from grief. However, life is tough for poor people and he had to keep on working as a cabby to earn his livelihood. While carrying people in his horse carriage, he tried to tell the passengers about his sorrow. His passengers were from middle class or rich families and they just got annoyed with him for this. They were more concerned to reach their destination in time. Iona’s heart only became heavier as he could not share his sorrows and at the end he decided to tell the story of his grief to his horse who was voiceless but attentive listener. Thus at the end the horse turned out to be an animal with humanity while the human beings with animal instincts.

When a person acts badly then others call that he is bad like a beast. Calling a human being as ‘bitch’ or ‘pig’ can ignite terrible passion in the persons as they would feel that they had been humiliated by comparing with animals. We like to think humans as superior to animals because animals only eat, sleep, kill and give birth. On the other hand, we have our civilization, kindness, knowledge and humanity. In the story ‘Heartache’Chekhov has depicted the dark side of humanity and he has shown that the dark side of humanity is even worse than animal behavior and aracteristics. The passengers could easily see that something was wrong with Iona but they simply did not care because they were too much consumed with their own interest just as the animals are busy with eating, sleeping and giving birth to new children. These passengers of Iona are only concerned with their own benefit and did not care about Iona’s misery because it contained no benefit for them. If Iona was a prince or rich businessman or high government official, they would all have got sympathized or at least would pretend to be sad that a father had lost his only son. Even these people would have pretended to be sad if the dog of a prince had died. Since, Iona was a poor man his son’s life did not have any value to the passengers.

Chekhov’s story takes place in Russia but it has a universal appeal. Even in our own time and in our own city Dhaka, we can find similar examples all around us all the time. Many times, we get on a rickshaw and the rickshaw puller tells us a tragic story about his son being sick or sister needing to get married. Most of the times, we either try to avoid getting sympathetic as it could cost us money or assume that the man is telling a fake tragic story just to get some extra money by falsehood. Hardly any of us show any sympathy to such a rickshaw puller let alone actually lend a helping hand. The worst brutality that can be found among us is that many of us always make fun of these poor people by telling that they are cheating us with fabricated stories. It is really funny that we forget the fact that more than 50% of our people live below the poverty line and cannot even get enough to eat three times. Thus if we just think of our society then we can find whether Chekhov’s

short story “Heartache” has a universal appeal or not. If only we had a powerful story teller like Chekhov, then our animal side would become apparent in our literature.


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18 thoughts on “Reversal of roles in Anton Chekhov’s Heartache”

  1. Really it is so hard to select right or wrong, true or false ..we mix with many man but we don’t know how many people are false, how many people are true ..but we seem everybody is good.

  2. It’s our society ‘s customs that famous are aleways memorable & also every matter of her/his is thinkable but a poor or a helpless always negligible. We flatter whose are powerful but try to dominant or ignor the helpless. Thanks

  3. It’s really true that in our daily life, we are so busy with our own business. we don’t have any time to listen others story but sometimes we make a fun of them. truly speaking the world is busy with ” To carry coal to new castle “

  4. Yeh, We like to show our sympathy by telling about other flute. But the main thing is that in a reality we have done same mistake. If we won’t change our mentality then our conditions won’t change anymore

  5. This is one of the best story I have read ever.Really this story has made me speechless. Words are too little to decribe it.I want to read more stories like this.

  6. really heart touching and this is so true in our society even I think many people around us who are gentle in look are always doing such kind of activities in their daily life.I’m also but from this moment insha allah I will help them from my level.

  7. TusherAbdullah

    humen is very different from any animal..but sometimes some body doing act like a animal that times this act fail to animal…humen being is very special for creatibity of Allah…We have need to keep helping mind always for other humen or animal.

  8. Loneliness naiym

    Really heart touching story and a valuable story for us.This story teaches us a lot of things.Thanks a lot sir for include such like articles.

  9. The name of the short story “Heartache” holds an unique feelings. The writer depicted the summary lucidly. Reality of life explored in few lines.
    Although its hard to believe people now a days. As lots of cheaters are also available in our Street l.
    Word meaning:
    Cabby গাড়োয়ান
    Ignite প্রজ্বলিত
    Humiliated অপমান

  10. Md:Moshiur Rahman

    I didn’t know before about Antony Chekov was one of the greatest short story writers in Russian literature. But now I knew lot of information .

  11. After finishing this story I first acquainted with Antony Chekhov and his short stories.We often face such type of man/woman like Lona Potapov.This pathetic character is very familiar with us.We often do rough behaviour with this lower people if they want right price or somewhat additional price.We spend much money for fulfilling our desire and that goes to the top of luxuries but it’s an atrocious truth that we show niggardliness to give extra money to the labourers/rickshaw pullers/drivers.That’s why this story gets a universal appeal.

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