“Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress. When I get fed up with one, I
spend the night with the other”

- Anton Chekhov

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a key component in the world of literature. He was
born January 17, 1860 in the town of Taganrog, Ukraine. He grew up the son of a grocer,
and was shadowed by his fathers tyranny and religious fanaticism. As a child he attended
a Greek boys school, and grammar school. Early on he felt a calling to practice medicine,
and was drawn to literature. For college, Chekhov attended the Moscow University
Medical School. While at medical school he published hundreds of comic short stories,
to support his family. By writing plays in school, he became interested in writing for the
theater. He graduated medical school in 1884, and practiced medicine in Moscow until
1892. Chekhov’s first book of stories in 1886 was a success, and he gradually became a
full-time writer. With the help of critical recognition and encouragement he wrote many
serious stories.
In 1890 he traveled across Siberia to a remote island and did a detailed census of
about 10,000 convicts and settlers which were condemned to live on an unfriendly island.
From this journey and experience he wrote his book THE ISLAND: A JOURNEY TO
SAKHALIN. His first full-length play IVANOV was a failure. The Moscow Art Theater
performed THE SEA GULL, and it was then he was overwhelmed with success.
Chekhov is said to have three masterpieces which are UNCLE VANYA, THE THREE
SISTERS, and THE CHERRY ORCHARD. In these plays he blended laughter and tears
and left room for imagination. His plays and stories reflect many different viewpoints.
Chekhov’s writings are influenced by Gogol, Lermontov, and Tolstoy. But, in his
writings he was most influenced by Turgenev. Chekhov would take issues and
impressive techniques and use them in his stories. Chekhov has a “resolution by means
of a surprising ending,” and “a zero ending.” The zero ending technique is that “the
conflict leads to expectations of dramatic conclusion while the story seems to end in an
unmotivated relaxation of tension, and without a climax.” The common tie between these
two techniques is the tension between the expected and the actual resolution. The “zero
ending” effect has had a significant influence on his short stories.
As Chekhov grew famous he grew increasingly obsessed with privacy and
“autobiographophobia.” In 1892, he bought a country estate in a small village, which is
where some of his best stories were born. As he continued writing he also served as a
doctor for the time he lived in the village. His stories almost exclusively portray life in
small Russian towns, where tragic events occur, as a part of everyday life.
In 1895, he wrote the short story ANNA ON THE NECK, which expresses both
tragedy and triumph. Tragedy is noticed from the ill-matched, loveless marriage and
triumph is introduced at the expense of Anna’s humanity. People have said this story is
ironic as opposed to tragic, for Anna wins in the end of the story. Chekhov designs the
story to end victoriously, which all ties back in with the Russians who are very sensitive
about winning.
Chekhov was married to an actress by the name of Olga Knipper. Their marriage
was reported to have a lot of conflict. For example, he never let her read his manuscripts
and they argued over the interpretation of the stories. In 1897 he was ill with
Tuberculosis. Even though he had this disease he kept writing and produced over 60
short stories and plays. He died in 1904 in Germany and had only lived 44 years.
Most of his plays are still performed, and he is named one of the great masters of
modern short story. Chekhov’s reputation has grown steadily, and he is now considered
to be the greatest Russian storyteller and dramatist of modern times.