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Archive for the tag “Short story”

The Necklace – Guy de Maupassant


Perhaps one of the best short story writers of all time is Guy de Maupassant.  His keen insight into ‘human nature’ makes his stories compelling and an enjoyable read.

The Necklace is one such story with an intriguing twist.

Mathilde has always dreamed of having a good life that comes with money and wealth.  Sadly her husband, Charles, is not able to provide these, being a Government Clerk.  He, however, adores his wife and tries his best to please her.  One day he comes home with an invitation to a party.

Mathilde complains that she has nothing to wear and even after Charles sacrifices money (he was saving to buy a rifle with) for a new dress, she is distressed that she has no fine jewels to complement the outfit.

Charles suggests that she borrow something from her rich friend, Madame Jeanne Forestier.  Mathilde does and picks the fanciest diamond necklace that she can find.

On returning from the party, Mathilde, flushed at all the attention and Charles, bored, Mathilde discovers that the necklace is missing!

Now here is where it gets interesting, neither Mathilde nor Charles have the courage or lack of pride to convey the truth to Madame Forestier and instead embark on a ten year burden to repay the money for a necklace that they have substituted for the original one.

Mathilde whose seemingly vacuous life now becomes obsessed with paying the money back. They take out  loans and she works her fingers to the bone in an effort to pay the 36, 000 francs necessary for the diamond necklace.  Charles too, takes on extra work and both live out a ‘decade nightmare’ of the bleakest life.

The sting in the story comes when the debt has been paid and Mathilde bumps into Madame Forestier, the latter who is looking fresh and pretty as the years have been kind to her. Mathilde in contrast looks older than her years and Madame Forestier does not recognize her at first.

Mathilde is so pleased to meet her and feels that it is time to come ‘clean’ and own up about the diamond necklace replacement.  Madame Forestier is surprised at the news and replies that the original necklace was a ‘fake’ and was only worth 500 francs at the most!

This is a wonderful tale of human failure, greed and all consuming pride.



Anton Chekhov – At Home


Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian physician,

dramatist and one of the greatest short story writers

in history.


Chekhov practised as a doctor throughout most of his literary career:

“Medicine is my lawful wife”, he once said,

“and literature is my mistress.”

Anton Chekhov dealt with many poignant themes of human

existence, of love, loss, pain, joy, suffering, victory,

sorrow and death.


He came from humble beginnings, the son of a grocer

and went on to become a renowned story-teller

and compassionate medical doctor who died

at forty-four and left behind some 240 stories

and some of the most influential plays

ever to hit the world stage.


The story I would like to comment on is ‘At Home‘,

first published as ‘Doma’ in New Times on

7 March 1887.  It also appeared in the collection

In The Dusk, published in St Petersburg in

1887, and in many subsequent collections.

This story attracted high praise at the time:

Tolstoy considered it to be one of Chekhov’s best.

A busy lawyer comes home and  engages in an

interaction with his seven-year old son who is

purported to have been smoking (reports the governess).

The only way he is able to win his son over is through a

little impromptu, tale, which has a major

impact on Seriozha, his son.

“An ending like this seemed to Bikovsky artless and absurd, but the whole tale had made a deep impression on Seriozha.  Once more sadness and something resembling terror crept into his eyes; he gazed for a minute at the dark window and said in a low voice: ‘I won’t smoke any more -‘

What I enjoyed in this powerful, short story is how

Chekhov manages to capture the psychology of the

seven-year-old boy, who had recently lost his mother.

The haphazard, simplistic thought patterns of the

child serve to provoke Eugene Bikovsky’s power of reasoning:

‘He has his own field of thought,’ the lawyer reflected. ‘He has a little world of his own in his head, and knows what, according to him, is important and what is not.  One cannot cheat him of his attention and consciousness by simply aping his language, one must also be able to think in his fashion.’

The story ends where the lawyer is ‘at peace’

of a kind, by incorporating the boy’s reasoning

into his own (that of a high-powered legal, analytical mind):

‘Medicine must be sweet, truth must be beautiful; this has been man’s folly since the days of Adam.  Besides, it may all be quite natural, and perhaps it is as it should be.  Nature herself has many tricks of expediency and many deceptions – ‘

This exquisite, sensitively written story is a must-read for

anyone who has had ‘any dealings’ with a seven-year-old!


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