The story St. Peter’s day was published in June 1881. He initially called it 29th of June and very playfully dedicated it to hunters that don’t shoot well and the ones that don’t shoot.
This story from Chekhov’s early writing days is part of a short story collection called ‘The Prank.’ For those of you curious ones out there, back in those days, 29th June used to be considered the start of the Russian hunting season.
St. Peter’s Day: Summary and Plot Analysis
The story opens in a setting where eight men and two dogs are preparing for their journey to hunt quail. Just when they are all set to leave, one Mikhei Igorovich comes around throwing a huge tantrum about him being left behind.
He immediately attacks his brother for deliberately not taking him and insists on going, creating a huge scene for that goal. After all, why was the young doctor allowed to go on the hunt if the skill of hunting was the qualifying factor? Neither of the men- Egor or the doctor knew how to hunt.
He blames Egor for being jealous of the doctor and that he was doubtful of the doctor’s intentions for his wife. It’s apparent that the brothers don’t get along well.
The doctor, of course, has no clue about what Egor’s thinking about taking him is and is constantly complaining about being taken with the group. All he wants is good sleep. He doesn’t want anything to do with hunting.
Eventually, the row gets settled when men from the other carriage offer Mikhei a seat to travel with them. Both groups set off.
As they arrive, both the groups seem to be having their equal share of good hunters and the equally incompetent ones.
Mikhei, for example, specializes in wreaking the experience of hunters in his group by constantly getting in the way. The Young doctor in the other group accomplished the same result with equal daftness, if not more.
A very senior man and a very qualified hunter – Bolva – hunts alone but is left behind. The group leaves him behind for certain death. One man’s suggestion to begin the eating and drinking is greeted with much enthusiasm and everyone seems to agree instantly.
The men go on to have several rounds of drinks, some going up to as much as ten. The men are completely sloshed by now, and the doctor wanders off in the forest and falls asleep there.
Other men are continuing on with their drinking when they suddenly realize that the doctor is nowhere to be seen.
Mikhei immediately cooks up a story about having seen the doctor leave with a carriage and that he was going to visit Egor’s wife. Although denying that such a statement by Mikhei had any effect on him, Egor immediately grew restless.
Cursing the doctor and his brother, he leaves soon after checking on his wife’s deeds. He arrives home and searches furiously for the doctor everywhere. Although the doctor is nowhere to be seen, he discovers the sexton under his wife’s bed.
Back in the forest, when the doctor wakes up and finds himself utterly alone, being left behind by the men, he sets for the town on foot, reaches the hospital, and writes a lengthy letter to Egor demanding an explanation for his ‘unseemly conduct.’
St Peter’s Day: Review and My Thoughts
Another funny story by Chekhov; young Chekhov creations are as mesmerizing as the later, more mature ones. Beyond the apparent humor is where you would find his satirical take on class, jealousy, a general lack of trust, and alcohol abuse.
I found the spat between the brothers very amusing. I must admit, it took me back to my childhood days when such conversations between my siblings and me were a daily affair. It doesn’t look like Egor and Mikhei have matured much in that regard.
Here is an explanation by Egor, when Mikhei asks him the reason for not taking him along:
I didn’t wake you up because there is no point in your coming. You can’t even shoot a gun. So why come? To get in the way? After all, you can’t even shoot.
And here is the response from Mikhei rubbing it in Egor’s face
Did you hear that, you shark? They have got room. I will go just to spite you!
The men bickered like kids to the extent that the General had to mediate and look what Egor says when called Mikhei’s kin.
Gentlemen, that’s enough. You are kith and kin.
He’s kith and kin to an ass, your excellency, not to me.
Although the fights between the brothers were the most amusing read for me, there were other hard-to-ignore fun moments involving other characters as well.
For example, here is the conversation between Manzhe and the Doctor.
Manzhe : You are a skeptic, doctor.
Doctor : Really? And what does skeptic mean?
Manzhe : A people…. A people….non-lover.
Here’s another one between the doctor and the general,
And why are you shouting? I am not intimidated by generals, Your excellency, particularly retired ones. Tone it down, if you please.
As the story closes, the doctor has learned his lesson: Never to ‘celebrate’ St. Peter’s day again.
Me, well, I am thanking my stars that I came across it.