Iona Potapov, the main character in Anton Chekhov’s short story, “Misery,” is yearning for someone to listen to his woes. Every human he comes in contact with blatantly ignores his badly-needed-to-tell-story by either shunning him or falling asleep. There is, however, one character in this story that would willingly listen to Iona, a character who is with Iona through almost the entire story. This character is his mare.
Renato Poggioli describes the story as being built “around two motionless figures, an animal and a man” (316). Iona and the mare are very much alike. They appear to be each other’s only companion, and they also act a lot alike. When Iona sits quietly, covered in snow that has recently fallen on him, his little mare is described as “white and motionless too” (17). Neither man nor mare cares move; both are still, frozen in time, waiting. Another example of the similar behavior between the two occurs when “the sledge driver clicks to the horse, cranes his neck like a swan. The mare cranes her neck, too” (18).
As the story opens Iona sits in his sleigh desperately waiting for his first fare, and when that fare arrives he immediately starts to talk of his son’s death (18). Although his best possible friend – the mare – is already present to listen to his story, Iona does not come to this realization until much later in the story. At the beginning, he still believes that what he needs, and will be able to find, is another human being with whom to share his woes.
The fare’s response to Iona’s story is, “have you gone cracked, you old dog? Look where you are going” (18). Iona, upset at this, continues to look around at the fare, in hopes of starting his story o…
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… no longer keep silence about the death of his son. He speaks to the air, and the mare is listening. She doesn’t shun him, abuse him, or ignore him. She just listens, as any good animal would do.
Beck, Alan, M., and Aaron Honoria Katcher. “Animal Companions: More Companion Than Animal.” Man and Beast Revisited. Ed. Michael H. Robinson and Lionel Tiger. Washington: Smithsonian P, 1991. 265-66.
Chekhov, Anton. “Misery.” The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 17-21.
Hildebrandt, Sherri. “Another Kind of Grief.” St. Paul Pioneer Press 13 Sept. 1998: 1-4.
Poggioli, Renato. “Storytelling in a Double Key.” Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories. Ed. Ralph E. Matlaw. New York: W.W. Norton
A Phoney in The Fifty Dollar Bill
A Phoney in The Fifty Dollar Bill
In “The Fifty Dollar Bill” written by Donald Hall, the narrator of the story seems to be an honest man, but is he really? I believe for the most part he is very honest—except for when he did not want to be drafted so he bribed his congressman. He had several reasons for wanting to be exempt from the draft. He was always honest, until he realized he had something important that could be lost.
The very beginning of the story starts with the narrator talking to us (the readers) about how honest he is. He tells about how he is well respected both in his profession and in the community where respect “is not accorded easily” (Hall 957). He is saying since he is a lawyer, respect is hard to earn. He tells us all the things he has never done: “I have never asked the judge who is my best friend to fix a ticket for the son of my liquor dealer. I have never promised a favor to a detective in order to hide evidence unfavorable to my client” (957). He is making it a point for us to believe he is honest. When he talks about other lawyers, he says they “live on intimate terms with dishonesty” (957). This statement implies that he could not handle being dishonest, or that at least he does not “live on intimate terms” with dishonesty. However, the final statement of the first paragraph, “I call myself an honest man,” does not really sound like he means what he is saying. He says, “I call myself an honest man,” not “I am an honest man.”
If the narrator was so worried about being honest, what reasons could he have had to try to bribe the congressman? He had a lot to deal with when the rumors of the draft came around. The narrator was a third-year law student. He only had one more year to complete before he got his degree. His wife was pregnant and about to have their first child. Those two things were very important to him, and he could not take the chance of losing them. Not only this, but he feared his own death. He had a “repeated sequence in his mind’s eye” in which he kept seeing his own death. The dream not only took place while be was asleep, he also saw his death while he was awake.