W O R L D
Analysis of Chekhov's "Gooseberries"
By Phil Stanwick
Some people view stress and pressure as a bad thing while other people think that pressure and stress can actually be highly beneficial. Stress is seen as being bad because it does cause some health problems, and it can be socially destructive. The health problems can range anywhere from heart problems to high blood pressure, from migraine headaches to cramps and ulcers. Socially it makes a person highly irritable and not very friendly, thus causing strains in every type of relationship: family, business, and personal. On the other hand, stress and pressure can be beneficial because it drives a person to do the absolute best job they can. At the work place for instance, a person under pressure tries their hardest to get tasks accomplished because that leads to promotions, raises, and other little perks that come with moving up the success ladder. The people that climb this ladder can go on to live highly productive and enriched lives if they can deal with the malicious effects of stress and pressure. With every different person their is a different way of dealing with stress. Some people to a nice long drive to soothe their sky-rocketing pulse rate. Others enjoy certain leisure activities such as swimming, bike riding, and walking or jogging. Some people look to relieve stress by doing more stress related activities such as weight lifting, karate, and racquetball. Some other look toward nature to lower their blood pressure. Perhaps a little fishing, gardening, or bird watching is their answer. Still, other types of people want to be left alone in peace and quiet to ponder ideas. What happens when your supposed relief from stress buildup actually augments to the stress that the person already has? Anton Chekhov discussed this idea in his story titled "Gooseberries." "Gooseberries" deals with the every day stress and the plans that people make to counter them. Chekhov proves that the supposed stress-free events prove to be more trouble than they appear to be.
Chekhov's story is about a man who had a dream. This man wanted to live in the country, and have a nice quiet peaceful life. This man made the common mistake that people have made over and over again; they set their goals and dreams so high that they are one ladder rung away from being attainable. This man worked very hard during his early years, and he saved almost all his money. He lived under extremely meager conditions so not to have to spend much money. People would view his situation and think he was having hard times, so they would give him little donations. Rather than spend this money on the new clothes or some extra food, which he really needed, he would put it away. Finally, he felt he had enough money to accomplish his dream(it lacked the gooseberry bushes he yearned for so badly). This was everything he wanted, because he planted his own bushes, but yet he still was not happy. His life was more stressful than ever before and this was supposed be his stress relieving time.
The man was so worried about money that he only hired the absolute minimum number of people he needed to help him. He had to do the rest of the work, and this is one factor that leads to his high stress problem. He was constantly worrying over his precious gooseberries, that he never really got to look around and enjoy his country living. That is not any way to release the stress that built up over all those years; doing back-breaking labor and constantly worrying about little things will not lower ones blood pressure. If this man had set a more reasonable goal, or perhaps waited until he was more ready financially, he may have been able to relax and truly revel in the fact of attaining his true dream.
The relevance of this story is not just out in the open. The man who lived with his precious gooseberries is the brother of the narrator of this story. The narrator only tells this story because he and a friend were out in the rain and the only shelter was in a place similar to that of the gooseberry man. When they see the owner of this land, he is covered in pure filth. The man even talks of not having bathed in many days, and is complaining of reeking like a pig. Living under such conditions can not be good for ones stress level; greeting your guests in dirty clothes and an even dirtier self. The man was also just coming from the fields and doing some hard laborious work. No one would want to spend their stress release time like that. This man, and his dirtiness, are a key point to the story. The reader thinks about the brothers way of life, and think that they would never allow their dreams to become that stressful. Then, this man and his filth show up and the reader realizes that he has turned out the same way. This poses a question for the reader; "if they turned out this way, and they knew what they wanted, who is to say that I cannot?" These men all thought that they were ready to relax and just watch the stress fly away like a bird. This story proves that people can get more stressed out living their dreams than working for them.
Dreams are meant to be the thoughts that get people through their mundane and almost trivial jobs. Dreams are supposed to be relaxing, fun, and stress free. Goals are what people spend their lives trying to reach, and when they are finally attained the person feels born again. They have already conquered their biggest obstacle, and felt total relief from stress. Once they reach these goals, people can start all over again, totally relaxed and ready to stir up more life. People might see this story as pointless when they look at it on the surface, but deep down it rings a bell and people know that the clock is ticking.