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A Problem by Anton Chekhov

“A Problem” is a short story by Russian author Anton Chekhov. The story concerns what happens when a forged IOU note affects a family. More important than the plot is Chekhov’s brilliant and rich characterizations. Chekov explores the notion that individuals are often unsure of themselves and that there should be consequences for bad behavior.

A Problem by Anton Chekhov

Sasha Uskov has written a promissory note that he cannot pay, cashing it a local bank. Having forged his uncle’s signature, he is in a bind. Now that the note is overdue, his uncles are debating what to do. Their dilemma is either to pay the note and save the family’s honor, or let Sasha face the consequences of his actions. The uncles are reactive to Sasha. Chekhov keeps the focus on Sasha’s actions and morals.

Sasha is portrayed as not exactly caring what happens to him: facing his uncles, in prison, or being sent to Siberia are all alternatives that he is facing, but his attitude is one of resignation. One of the uncles, Ivan Markovitch, wants to forgive Sasha and save the family’s honor. Another uncle, the Colonel, whose name is on the forgery, believes that paying the debt would be a mistake. When Sasha he is finally freed from blame his first reaction is to go and have a drink with his friends. It is only after remembering that he has no money does his mood sink. He then asks his uncle Ivan Markovitch to loan him 100 rubles.

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