A Slip-Up by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Analysis

the text "a slip-up written by anton chekhov" written next to the portrait of anton chekhov

Be happy, my dears! Oh! You are taking from me my only treasure! Love my daughter, be good to her!

Something you would expect to be said in a marriage ceremony. And it almost was. Welcome to another Chekhov short story with a twist.

This excerpt from Chekhov’s short story A Slip Up is a hilarious take on a young man’s lack of commitment to the wedding and the parents who are ready to bless the union before it even shows signs of qualifying.

The story is one of his earlier works, published way back in 1886. 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.

A Slip Up: Summary and Plot Analysis

Ilya Peplov and Kleopatra Petrovna are parents to a young woman Natashenka, who is being ‘courted’ by a local school teacher Gropekin. The parents seem to be eavesdropping on what they feel is a confession of love to each other. 

They plan to seal the deal by blessing them with an icon at the very opportune moment to make the union binding for both.

Unaware of any such plans, the young couple seems to be having a leisurely conversation.

You teach penmanship and your handwriting is like chicken scratches!

In penmanship the main thing isn’t handwriting, the main thing is that the pupils shouldn’t doze off. One gets it on the head with a ruler, another’s made to stand in a corner.. What’s handwriting! A waste of time!

Things start to get a bit emotional for Natashenka, and she offers that he kiss her little hand in confession of his love to her. Gropekin, of course, is onboard with that. 

Hearing this part of the conversation, the parents feel that time has finally come. Peplov asks Kleopatra to fetch the icon so they can go ahead, bless the union and seal the deal. Cleopatra grabs an icon and they barge in.

The Lord will bless you, my children. Live, be fruitful, multiply.

Be happy, my dears! Oh! You are taking from me my only treasure! Love my daughter, be good to her!

Gropekin completely froze at the scene – the assault was so sudden. He had been caught, after all, there was no way he was going to be able to get out of it. He was almost on the verge of giving up when he realized that what was supposed to be an icon to bless was actually a writer’s portrait. 

The mother, in her excitement and rush, picked up the wrong icon by mistake. He was saved. 

In the ensuing confusion and embarrassment, Gropekin found the perfect opportunity to escape this time for good.

The teacher of penmanship took advantage of the situation and fled.

A Slip Up: Review and My Thoughts

Minus the icon thing, this situation is all too familiar—the young couple as well as the parents.

Natashenka seems to be in love, while Gropekin appears to be looking for a quick win. 

Natashenka’s parents are eager to have the union formalized. Surprise, surprise! So much so that they are willing to lay down a trap the guy can’t escape out of.

As for Gropekin, Wedding doesn’t seem like the price he is willing to pay, at least not now. As the parents stand in confusion and embarrassment about picking up the wrong icon, Gropekin doesn’t lose a minute before escaping. 

Gropekin reminded me just a little bit of Chekhov. Chekhov is known to have had a fair share of affairs, and his lack of commitment was never a secret. 

On the topic of marriage, He is known to have said: 

A man and a woman marry because both of them do not know what to do with themselves.

I don’t know if I can commit to an agreement or a disagreement with it.

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