Characterful Settings

I’ve been reading some of Chekhov’s short stories (love them), but one of the things that struck me reading them was how wonderfully the characters interact with their environment. Their thoughts, emotions and outlooks infuse the landscape and the setting in turn reflects them and their story so powerfully, making everything richer.

For example in ‘The Kiss’ Ryabovitch, a soldier has a passing kiss with a woman, accidentally, and everywhere hereafter the place is affected with his new feelings:

“On the other side of the river a murky fire came into sight, and having nothing better to do, they spent a long time in discussing whether it was a camp fire or a light in a window or something else…Ryabovitch too, looked at the light, and he fancied that the light looked and winked at him, as though it knew about the kiss.”

In ‘Enemies’ there is a wonderful interaction between the mother of the dead boy and her surroundings; her grief is so tangible within her surroundings:

“…she did not stir; but what life was suggested in the curves of her body and in her arms! She leaned against the bed with all her being, pressing against it greedily with all her might, as though she was afraid of disturbing the peaceful and comfortable attitude she had found at last for her exhausted body.”

And then there’s Sonya, who is putting life as she knows it in danger by being on the verge of embarking in an affair:

“Sonya…turned towards the embankment with a burning face. The engine slowly crawled by, then came the carriages. It was not the local train, as she supposed, but a goods train. The trucks filed by against the background of the church in a long string like the days of a man’s life, and it seemed as though it would never end.”

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