Psychological Impoverishment in "Anyuta" in Anton Chekhov's Term Paper

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Psychological Impoverishment in "Anyuta"

In Anton Chekhov's short story "Anyuta," the title character is defined by her internal impoverishment. Perhaps drawing on his professional background as a doctor, Chekhov primarily explores Anyuta's psychological impoverishment through her physical behavior and body, and secondarily through her relationship to Stepan Klochkov.

The story opens with an image of Anyuta and Stepan Klochkov in a dirty apartment. The image introduces several pertinent clues about how to interpret Anyuta's character, before the reader even sees her interact with Stepan. First, the narrator has given Stepan a last name but declined to specify Anyuta's. One possible interpretation of this difference is that Stepan's identity in the world is more particular and concrete than Anyuta. A last name is usually a family name. The reader gets the sense that Stepan has a family, comes from somewhere, is grounded by a historical past. Stepan not only has Another possible interpretation of this differential naming, which may be reconcilable with the first interpretation, is that the narrator has a stronger level of familiarity with Anyuta than Stepan, and so he introduces "Stepan Klochkov" to the reader formally. The narrator's intimacy with Anyuta allows him to present her without bothering to mention her last name. The reader is given a far fuller description of Anyuta's physical appearance than either of the other two character's. Effectively, the vagueness and intimacy of the introduction to Anyuta aligns the reader's sympathies with Anyuta. Immediately the narrator has given the reader the sense that Anyuta is alone in the world.

The details of Anyuta's physical appearance evoke impoverishment. The narrator describes her as "small, thin" "very pale with meek grey eyes" with her back bent (Chekhov 27). Anyuta's body immediately registers as insubstantial, as barely there at all. She has little weight in the world, and little coloring or liveliness to give her presence or importance to the people around her. She is not just "pale," but very much so. Her eyes are not just grey (and colorless) but also meek. She is even bended over in a position of submission as she embroiders the collar of a man's shirt.
Anyuta is mild and yielding in stark contrast to Stepan's aggressiveness. Of Stepan's physical appearance, the reader is told that he grinds away at his medical studies so rigorously that his mouth is dry and his forehead is sweaty. Stepan has a far stronger physical presence in the room.

The near-anonymity of Anyuta is subtly increased in this passage by the fact that she's about twenty-five, not precisely any age.

Both Anyuta and Stepan are under stress to finish something, but the ways in which they show their reactions to stress emphasize the opposite natures they possess. While Stepan grinds his teeth and moves about actively as he tries to study, Anyuta sits still embroidering a shirt-collar. The narrator describes Anyuta's work as an "urgent job," but Anyuta doesn't seem to work as urgently as Stepan. She toils over the shirt, but quietly. Although her work is urgent, she stops embroidering as soon as Stepan commands her. Stepan tells her to "come here," and in response she takes off her blouse and straightens up. These immediate unasked-for movements suggest that Anyuta is accustomed to being commanded by Stepan to help him in his medical studies. She doesn't express any will of her own. For example, the reader only finds out that she might be uncomfortable standing there after Stepan asks why she's flinching when he touches her and she tells him his fingers are cold. She continues to stand there, even after her "lips, nose and fingers had turned blue with cold" (Chekhov 28). Stepan tells her "well...you won't die." (Chekhov 28). He remains completely oblivious to Anyuta's body as anything other than an instrument for his own selfish study, and she, herself, displays no consideration for her body in avoiding any sort of confrontation or resistance.

Anyuta's skinny, cold body symbolizes her psychological state. Stepan says, "You're so skinny to….....

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