In Guy de “The Necklace” and Anton Chekov’s “Vanka,” the narrators’ attitudes are unsympathetic toward the protagonists Mathilde and Vanka. However, where the narrator of “The Necklace” feels outright hostility toward Mathilde, the narrator of “Vanka” voices his opinion more passively by pointing out the flaws in Vanka’s wishful thinking.
In “The Necklace,” the narrator’s unsympathetic feelings toward Mathilde are made evident in the first paragraph when he states, “she had no dowry, no expectations, no means of being known, understood, loved, wedded by an rich and distinguished man; and she let herself be married to a little clerk at the Ministry of Public Instruction” (66). The narrator portrays Mathilde as a selfish and haughty shrew whose only desire is to be admired and praised by everyone else. Mathilde defines her status by her good looks and thinks it degrading that she is the daughter of a lowly clerk. Also, the phrase “let herself be married” shows that she consider herself above the common person, and by marrying a clerk she lowered her standards (66). Conversely, in “Vanka”, the narrator points out the flaws of Vanka’s wishful thinking by showing the reality of his situation. Vanka writes to his grandfather as if to Santa Clause, but instead of asking for toys, he asks for freedom from his cruel life by asking his grandfather to “take [him] away from here, home to the village” (48). The narrator, though, shows how Vanka’s grandfather drinks profusely although Vanka never truly realizes it except when he pictures him as a “lively little old man of sixty-five with an everlastingly laughing face and drunken eyes” (47). The narrator further p…
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… (47) and in Vanka’s dream he appears to laugh, as if reveling in the fact that he has been able to cause more mischief, this time in Vanka’s life (49).
Both “The Necklace” and “Vanka” portray characters that are treated unsympathetically by their narrators. At the end of both stories, too, the narrators appear to laugh at the characters because all of their hard work and troubles were for nothing; Mathilde lost her youth and beauty for a fake necklace; Vanka wasted his hopes on a letter that will never arrive at its destination.
Chekov, Anton. “Vanka.” Understanding Fiction. 3rd ed. Eds. Clanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hill, 1979. 46-49
de Maupassant, Guy. “The Necklace.” Understanding Fiction. 3rd ed. Eds. Clanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hill, 1979. 66-72
Comapring Sympathy For Characters in O. Henry’s Furnished Room and Chekov’s Vanka
Sympathy For Characters in O. Henry’s Furnished Room and Chekov’s Vanka
Two Works Cited The narrators in both O. Henry’s “The Furnished Room” and Anton Chekov’s “Vanka” view their protagonists as desperate and helpless in a world of cold realism. With tones rich in sympathy, the narrators in both stories take pity on their characters. Both characters have yet to understand that realistically they have little control of the dismal life they lead; instead, their surroundings have more of an impact on their life. Trapped in a harshly ironic and deceitful world, the characters become pitiable symbols in a world numb to their presence.
Transforming the protagonists into symbols that touch on everyday human norms (such as unending faith and one’s lodgings), the narrators promote a sense of empathy. While the young man in “The Furnished Room” represents the personified room in which he lodges, Vanka resembles a sad angel in his purity and innocence. For instance, like the worn-down room in which the young man stays, his well-being depends on people and events that pass him by. The room’s personified descriptions reflect all of the young man’s emotions: the young man is emotionally “chipped and bruised,” (41) and “desolat” (41) like the constantly abandoned room. Also, like the room the protagonist remains anonymous, as if he means little compared to his surroundings and his lost love (all of which are given names). Vanka, though also enduring a rough life, instead possesses a beam of hope in his innocence. Kneeling before his faithful letter to his Grandfather (as if to pray), Vanka resembles a sad angel. Inspite of his constant neglect and abuse, Vanka holds steadily to his faith and wishes his Grandfather “all the blessings…
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…ness of mankind. The idea of diminshing hope for both characters is the narrator’s final sympathy-balming attempt.
The manner in which the narrators present human nature–the dark side of a merciless world in which the characters live–as well as the naive and pathetic nature of both characters, render two stories thirsty for empathy. The naivity that both characters have towards the deceit in their surroundings, as well as their lack of control in events which they endure, cause both characters to be helpless in a cruel world.
Chekov, Anton. “Vanka.” Understanding Fiction. 3rd ed. Eds. Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren.
Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979. 46-49.
Henry, O. “The Furnished Room.” Understanding Fiction. 3rd Edition. Eds. Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn
Warren. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979. 39-43.