In A Living Chattel, Anton Chekhov writes:

[Impersonal Witness] I pressed Groholsky's hand, and got into the train. He bowed towards the carriage, and went to the water-barrel—I suppose he was thirsty!

What is implied when Groholsky is seen heading toward the water barrel? That he is intending on drowning himself perhaps, or that he earnestly is thirsty?

1 Answer 1


Drowning is out of question, for a few reasons.

First, the word translated as water-barrel in Russian original is кадушка; a vessel holding perhaps four or five gallons at most. It physically impossible to drown in it.

Second, the entire story is in past tense, except that Groholsky

is staying with Bugrov to this day

is in present. This surely means that he is alive by the time the story is told.

The exact symbolism of the final sentence is not clear; we can only guess why Chekhov mentioned it. It could be that Groholsky is about to burst in tears and needs water to wash his eyes (very melodramatic, but in line with his character). It could be that he has a hangover (Russian tradition associates the sudden attack of thirst with hangover). It could have no hidden meaning at all.

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