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The Beggar Summary in English by Anton Chekhov
The Beggar by Anton Chekhov About the Author
Anton Pavlovich Chekov was a Russian playwright and short story writer. Chekov shared a strained relationship with his abusive father and this influenced his writing. After his father went bankrupt, Chekov had to pay for his own education by selling his family’s possessions, tutoring and selling short sketches to newspapers. After enrolling in a medical school, he became the sole financial support for his family. After he became a physician, he continued writing and eventually started gaining popularity. Chekov’s works have established him as one of the most famous figures in literature, hailed for his contribution to the form of the modem short story. He also wrote plays, many of which continue to be staged all over the world. His simple style of writing, his probing of human nature and his refusal to provide easy solutions continue to make his works relevant even today.
|Author Name||Anton Pavlovich Chekhov|
|Born||29 January 1860, Taganrog, Russia|
|Died||15 July 1904, Badenweiler, Germany|
|Books||The Lady with the Dog, Stories of Anton Chekhov|
|Short stories||The Chameleon, Misery, Gooseberries|
The Beggar Summary in English
The story begins with a beggar’s pleas to an advocate, Sergei. The beggar says that he has not eaten in three days. For eight years he was a village schoolteacher and fell victim to a conspiracy that cost him his reputation and his job. For a year he has had no employment. Sergei looks at the beggar’s overcoat and face; he thinks he has seen him elsewhere.
The beggar further explains that he has been offered a position in the province of Kaluga; but to take it up, he needs money. Sergei observes the beggar’s overshoes: one is higher than the other. He suddenly remembers where he had seen the beggar before. He tells the beggar that two days ago, he had met him In Sadovya Street and the latter had claimed that he had been a student who had been expelled. The beggar is surprised and claims that he has papers to prove that he was a village schoolteacher. Sergei turns away from him, disgusted.
Sergei says that for this fraud, he will call the police. At this, the beggar confesses that he used to be part of a Russian choir and had been expelled for drunkenness. He says he has no choice but to lie as no will help him if he tells them the truth.
Sergei tells him to work; he asks the beggar if he would like to chop wood for him. The beggar accepts. Sergei takes the beggar home and tells his cook, Olga, to take him to the woodshed. It becomes apparent from the beggar’s body language that he has accepted this job only out of pride and shame and not because he wants to work. It is also apparent that the beggar has become frail because of drinking vodka and does not have the slightest will to do hard work.
Sergei observes Olga and the beggar from the window in the dining room. He sees them making their way through the snow to the woodshed. Olga does not seem to take kindly to the beggar. Upon reaching the shed,
Olga shoves the beggar aside with her elbow and angrily bangs the door. He then sees the beggar seat himself upon a log and look lost in thought. Olga flings an axe at his feet, spits angrily and appears to be scolding him. At this point, the beggar begins to make half-hearted attempts to chop a piece of wood. By now Sergei’s anger has vanished and he begins to feel ashamed at having sent a spoiled, drunken and perhaps sick man to do hard labour in the cold weather.
After an hour, Olga informs Sergei that all the wood has been chopped. Sergei tells her to pay the beggar half a rouble and also tell him that he can come back to cut wood on the first day of every month. There would always be work for him to.
On the first date of the next month, the waif comes to chop wood and earns half a rouble again, though he can barely stand steady on his feet. After that, he returns to Sergei’s yard many times and is given work every time— he shovels snow, organises the woodshed and dusts the rugs and mattresses. Every time he is paid 20 to 40 copecks, and one time he is also given a pair of old trousers. When Sergei moves to a new house, the waif is hired to help with the packing and moving of furniture. This time, he comes silent, sober and gloomy. He does not even pretend to be working. He shivers in the cold and becomes embarrassed when the carters laugh at his behaviour and his tattered overcoat.
Sergei sends for him and says he is happy that the waif is working and is sober. He asks the latter for his name. The waif says his name is Lushkoff. Sergei offers him a better job and asks Lushkoff if he can write. When Lushkoff says that he can write, Sergei asks him to take a letter to someone the next day where he will be given copying work. Sergei reminds him to work hard, be sober and remember his words. Sergei is happy at having set Lushkoff on the right path. Lushkoff takes the letter and after that day, does not return to work for Sergei.
Two years go by. One day, when Sergei is buying tickets at a theatre’s ticket window, he notices a small man beside him, wearing a coat collar of curly fur and a worn sealskin cap. This man timidly asks for a ticket and pays in copper coins. Sergei realises this man is Lushkoff and asks him what he has been doing. Lushkoff says he is doing well; he is a notary and earns 35 roubles a month. Sergei is delighted and tells Lushkoff that he is almost like a godson to him. He reminds Lushkoff of the scolding he had given him and thanks him for not forgetting his words.
Lushkoff thanks Sergei as well and says that had it not been for Sergei’s help, Lushkoff would probably still be lying and begging. He expresses his gratitude to Sergei but says that it was Olga who saved him. He explains that when he used to go to Sergei’s house, Olga would sit opposite him, become sad and weep saying that Lushkoff was an unfortunate drunkard who would find no happiness in this life or the next. She would cry and be miserable, but most importantly, she would chop the wood for him. He confesses that he never chopped a single piece of wood and that she had done it all. He cannot explain how this act changed him and saved him. All he knows is that her words and kind deeds changed his heart; set him on the right path and he would never forget that. Then the theatre’s bell rings and Lushkoff bows and goes inside the gallery.
The Beggar Title
The title ‘The Beggar’ is symbolic. On the surface, it appears to be a story about a beggar, a young man who had no aim or ambition, who had taken to lying to make some money. He is fully entrenched in thisTife until he is redeemed by the compassion of a lady who feels so sorry for him that she sheds tears and works in his stead so that he can earn money and save himself from starvation. The transformation that takes place due to her kindness forms the crux of the story. Thus, the title is thought-provoking, as it leaves the reader to dwell on the human failing of judging people and labelling them for life.
The Beggar Setting
The story is set in a city of the erstwhile USSR. The story spans a period of two years with most of the action concentrated in the winter months.
The Beggar Theme
The story revolves around the theme of kindness and compassion. It also highlights the human failing of being judgmental and labelling people, while highlighting the ability of a person to change with the right motivation.
The Beggar Message
The strongest message of the story is the effect that kindness can have on another human being. It shows how a selfless act can have a life-changing effect on the receiver, to the extent that it gives him the incentive to change a way of life that he had become entrapped in.
The Beggar Characters
The Beggar, Lushkoff: The character of Lushkoff undergoes a great transformation during the story. Initially, he appears to be a good for nothing liar, whose only work is to get some money to buy himself a few drinks.
He is thin, emaciated, with a waif-like appearance, weak and listless. He dressed in cast-off clothes and shoes. However, as the story progresses, his character transforms. He becomes sober and accepts Sergei’s offer of working as a copier with his friend. By the end of the story, we find him wearing a coat collar of fur, and a work sealskin cap, buying himself a seat at the theatre. From a beggar, he has become a notary earning 35 Roubles a month. He remains grateful to Sergei, and especially to his cook Olga, who he reveals actually did all the work Sergei had paid him to do. He reveals that it was the selflessness and nobility of the cook that saved his life and inspired him to become a better person. Her empathy and the tears she shed for his sake had helped him change.
Sergei: He is a wealthy advocate with a kind heart. Though he is observant enough to recognise the beggar, he offers him some work at his house in return for money. He even offers the beggar a way of redeeming himself by giving him odd jobs to do. In the end he sends him to him friend, who needs someone to do some copying work. This helps the man to get a stable job and make a decent living.
At first, he takes the credit for the beggar’s transformation, but later he is humble enough to accept that though he provided the opportunity, it was his cook Olga who deserved the credit for inspiring the beggar to change. Sergei appears to be a practical man who tries to stop Lushkoff from begging by giving him an alternative method of earning a living. He is also resourceful as he keeps engaging Lushkoff in different tasks, which are helpful for both the beggar and him.
The Cook: The cook is the most noble and compassionate character in the story. Initially, she appears to be angry with the arrival of the beggar, and seems to ill-treat and abuse him. In reality, however, she is the one performs all the tasks for the beggar and lets him take the credit and money for them. She is empathetic to the extent that she cries seeing the state the beggar is in, and his fate if he continues to be a wastrel and drunkard. It is her selflessness and compassion that brings about a change in the beggar’s character. Because of her empathy, he is able to remain sober and starts working hard, becoming a notary earning a stable salary within two years. She is thus able to save the life of the beggar, even though she isn’t actually aware of the profound effect she has on him.
The Beggar Summary Questions and Answers
What is the excuse that the beggar gives Sergei for begging when he meets him for the second time?
He says he had been a village schoolmaster for eight years but had lost his job due to intrigues at his place of work. He had not eaten for three days and had no money for lodging. ^
How did Sergei respond to the beggar’s request for money?
He looked closely at him and recognised him as the same person who he had seen on Sadovya Street a few days back, when he had introduced himself as a student who had been expelled.
Why was Sergei disgusted with the beggar?
He was disgusted at his dishonesty because he had seen him on another street pretending that he had was an expelled student in need of money, and now he claimed to be a village schoolmaster who had lost his job due to intrigues at the school. His lies disgusted Sergei.
What was the beggar’s real identity?
He had been part of the Russian choir, but had lost his place there due to drunkenness.
How does the beggar react to Sergei’s offer to chop wood for him in return for money?
The beggar accepts the offer readily and follows Sergei home. He says that he can’t refuse because in those days even skilled woodcutters found themselves sitting without food and work.
Who did Sergei hand over the beggar to on reaching home? What were his instructions?
He called his cook, Olga, and handed over the beggar to her. He asked her to take him to the wood-shed and get him to chop some wood.
Why has the beggar been described as a scarecrow?
He has been described as a scarecrow because he was as thin as a scarecrow and shabbily dressed in ill- fitting, mismatched clothes.
What was the real reason the beggar agreed to work for the writer?
The real reason was that he was a proud man and he felt ashamed at having been trapped by his own words in front of Sergei. He wanted to prove that he could do honest work when given the opportunity.
How did the narrator realise that the beggar had not come willingly with him?
The narrator realised this from his gait. He shrugged his shoulders as if in perplexity and went irresolutely after the cook. It was also obvious that he was unhealthy and under the influence of liquor. It did not seem as though he had the strength to chop wood.
How did Olga react to the beggar?
She glanced at the beggar with anger, shoved him aside with her elbow, unlocked the shed and angrily banged the door. She then flung down an axe at his feet, spat angrily and appeared to be scolding him.