by Anton Chekov
Kirilov is the district doctor. His six-year old son has just this moment died of diphtheria. He stands watching his wife caress the body as the doorbell rings. It is a wealthy stranger (Abogin) who begs the Doctor to come treat his wife who is in great pain. Kirilov says that he cannot possibly leave his wife at this time. Abogin insists, however, claiming that the doctor must know how terrible it is to witness the illness of a loved one and that his home is close-by. Kirilov relents.
But when they arrive at Abogin’s house, his wife is not home. She has pretended to be ill so that her husband would leave the house allowing her to run away with her lover. Abogin is crushed and begins to complain to Kirilov. Kirilov is fiercely angry that he has been dragged from his son’s death-bed to hear Abogin’s love troubles. They scream at one another, and the doctor returns home, with a firm and undying conviction that all those with money deserve his hatred.
Chekhov suggests that grief and misery do not bring people together to share, but force them apart. Pain is egotistic. The story also reflects on the status of doctors. When Abogin tries to lure the Doctor from his house, he speaks of the noble, self-sacrificing profession of medicine. However, he has so little respect for Kirilov as to hound him, then offer him money to absolve the insult. Kirilov, meanwhile, unjustly forms a prejudice against the rich that will never leave him.
Source: The Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 11: The Schoolmaster and Other Stories
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