Enemies by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Analysis

It was about ten o'clock of a dark September evening the doctor Kirilov's only son; Andrey died of diphtheria. A disappointed doctor’s wife was on her knees before the dead child’s cot. In the meantime, the bell rang sharply in the hall. Kirilov himself went to the door as all the servants were sent away from the house, that very morning when the diphtheria was recognized. Kirilov opened the door, but could not distinguish the person as the hall was dark. He could only see the man who was of middle height wearing a white scarf with a big extraordinarily pale face. The visitor, Aboguin, asked if the doctor was in. Then Kirilov replied that he was the doctor and asked what he wanted.

Anton P. Chekhov(1860-1904)

The man was very glad to find the doctor at home. He requested the doctor to go with him because his wife was seriously ill. The man's voice was sincere and he was frightened. The doctor listened in silence, but it seemed as if he did not understand anything. When he was asked to go again, the doctor said that he was unable to go because his son had died five minutes before. The man cursed the unlucky day. He could not decide what to do. Then he requested him to go because there was not another doctor nearby.

The doctor went into the drawing-room. He moved uncertainly. He was not taking interest in anything. He had forgotten that there was a visitor in the hall. Then he moved into the bedroom. His son's eyes were open and his wife was not moving at all. The doctor's face showed indifference, but the tears shining on his beard revealed that he had been weeping. The fear of such death was absent in the room. There was complete silence. The beauty of human grief could be expressed by music only. After the death of this son they had no chance of having another child any more. Feeling pain in his soul, the doctor moved to the hall. Then he remembered the visitor and told him that he could not go. The visitor had supposed that the doctor had gone to change his dress. In the name of humanity, Aboguin asked the doctor to save a human life. But the doctor was unable to do anything because of his own grief Aboguin's eloquent speech did not affect the doctor. But when he said that the doctor could return home within an hour, the doctor was ready to go.

The coach was driven quickly. It was dark outside. The carriage drove into the thick trees. The wheels awoke the rooks and they cried as if they knew the doctor's son was dead and Aboguin's wife was ill. Once again the doctor wanted to go home to send the attendant to his wife and come. In all nature one felt something hopeless and sick. The nearer the carriage reached Aboguin's home, the more restless he became. There was no noise in his home. Leaving the doctor in his drawing-room, he went to inform the doctor's arrival. The luxury of the room did not affect the doctor.

After five minutes Aboguin reappeared. His manners had been changed. He was horrified and disgusted. He said that his wife had deceived him and ran away with Papchinsky. Tears were flooding from his eyes. Now the doctor was curious and asked where the patient was. Aboguin replied that she was not ill and that she ran away with a fool. The doctor was unable to understand why he had been called although his wife was in sorrow and all alone in his house. The doctor had never seen such a situation in his life. The doctor felt insulted. But Aboguin told him how he loved his wife and how he had given up his family, his service, his music for her. He was speaking deeply to the doctor. If the doctor had listened to him and sympathized with him, he would have been changed. But the doctor was angry with Aboguin and was not interested in his secrets. Both of them were obsessed with their own unhappiness. They both started quarrelling, bitterly with each other. They abuse and insult one another. This unhappiness was separating them instead of uniting them. The doctor did not accept his fees. He wanted to go home. Aboguin ordered his servant to send the carriage for the doctor. As they were waiting, Aboguin was trying to make as if he did not notice his enemy. The doctor was looking at him hatefully.

A little later the doctor was driving back home. All the way he did not think of his wife and his dead son. He was thinking of Aboguin, his wife and Papchinsky. He hated them and his heart ached with his hatred for them. His sorrow would pass after some time, but the conviction he formed about them would remain forever.

The story portrays two completely different characters in their moments of grief. They are so much filled with their own agonies that they fail to understand others sufferings. The story is trying to say that grief does not unite people, but separates them. We may think that Dr. Kirilov and Aboguin who are passing through the most difficult moment of their lives should have been able to understand each other better. But that does not happen in reality. Instead, they fall down to such an extent that they even forget their self-respect.

The story also seems to be pointing towards the issue of class consciousness. Dr. Kirilov’s anger and hatred towards Aboguin heightens when he comes to know that Aboguin belongs to the wealthy aristocratic class. Dr. Kirilov thinks that Aboguin’s request for him to visit his home is a part of a long chain of insults inflicted by the rich upon the poor. Therefore, when the Dr. Kirilov returns home, he is filled with anger for the people belonging to that class and feels that he will not be able to forget them throughout his life.

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