An Educated Blockhead by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Analysis

the text "an educated blockhead written by anton chekhov" written next to the portrait of anton chekhov

I don’t know about you, but I have had the privilege of seeing many of these creatures over the years—more than I would like. 

Having said that, I think I have the full potential to be one, too; I have proven to myself on occasions that I might be worthy of the crown. Hopefully, that is something that never happens to me. 

But even if it does, I am happy that Slopsov from Anton Chekhov’s short story ‘An Educated Blockhead’ would be there to cushion my fall.

This excerpt is from Chekhov’s short story ‘An Educated Blockhead’ and is one of his earlier works, published way back in 1885. It is also available as part of a short story collection called Fifty Two stories published by Alfred A Knopf, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

An Educated Blockhead: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens with Arkhip Slopsov, a retired second Lieutenant, trying to read what seems like a court summons signed by a judge, Pyotr Sixwingsky. 

As soon as he sees the judge’s name, who happens to be a friend, Slopsov discounts what he is reading, assumes that he is being invited, and continues to believe so even after his brother-in-law, Lieutenant Nitkin explains that it is actually a court order and not an invitation. After all, Sixwingsky is a friend; how could he ever qualify to judge him?

He’s summoning you to court as the accused… He’s putting you on trial

Me, is it? Pss.. the milk hasn’t dried on his lips yet; who’s he to put me on trial… Small fry… He’s just doing that as a joke.

How can he judge me if we’ve played cards and drunk and done devil knows what else together? What kind of a judge is he anyway? Ha-ha! Petka- a judge- Haha!

Nitkin tries to explain the gravity of the situation to Slopsov, that he might be incriminated and punished, but Slopsov doesn’t understand. He advises Slopsov not to go to the hearing so, he and his judge friend both are saved from the embarrassment, but Slopsov is hearing none of it. 

Sixwingsky is a friend, after all, a godfather to his son. The hearing is nothing but a farce in his mind.

No, why in absentia? I’ll go and see how he is going to judge it. I’m curious to see what kind of judge he’s become – Incidentally, I haven’t visited him for a long time.

On the day of the hearing, Slopsov presents himself. Sixwingsky is visibly embarrassed but continues with the proceedings. The victim Grigory Vlasow is asked to provide an account of the event, and it looks very much like Slopsov actually did commit the offence. 

Slopsov, however, when asked if he was guilty, still takes it as a joke. Frustrated, the judge calls for a quick recess and convinces Slopsov to stay back and let him pronounce his judgement in absentia. 

Slopsov reluctantly agrees. The judge comes back happy about having avoided a scandal and a fair sentence – one that required Slopsov to pay a fine to the victim. Slopsov is flabbergasted. The least he was expecting was for the victim to be locked up.

Me.. Pay Grishka.. Ten roubles?! Are you crazy?

You fined me ten roubles, but for how many days are you going to keep Grishka in lockup?

So, it’s still the good old days, is that it? You beat Grishka, and Grishka should be arrested! Amazing logic! Do you have any notion of today’s legal procedures?

The judge ended up paying the victim on Slopsov’s denial, and they went for lunch together at his house. The topic comes up again, and Slopsov, drunk this time, asks again if Vlasov would be locked to avoid lodging any further complaints against Slopsov.

The judge and Nitkin attempt explaining again, but to no avail.

Slopsov’s opinion of Sixwingsky is set.

He is a good man, educated, ever so obliging, but.. Unfit! He doesn’t really know about judging… It’s a pity, but we’ll have to unselect him for the next three-year term.

Here, you need a man of rank and substance.. So that you know, he instills fear, but they just perched some Nobody up there – go on Judge!

An Educated Blockhead: Review and My Thoughts

Slopsov shone as a complete moron in the story. Foolhardy, entitled, freeloading, judgemental brat! I began to think how a person like Sixwingsky (references to Seraphim, the angel of the highest rank) would ever come to be friends with a person like Slopsov. 

They are polar opposites. He doesn’t listen to reason. At all. From anyone. He can punish anyone he likes, whichever way he likes, for no reason whatsoever, without any regard to repercussions. 

To him, the entire justice system is a joke. And not just that, his friend, the judge too. He is quick to forget the judge’s help but not so agile when it actually comes to understanding why he did what he did. In his mind, however fair, qualified, well-meaning a judge is, he is useless if he doesn’t instill fear. Fear equates to the proper judgement.

Slopsov, true to your name, you are a Certified Blockhead.

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