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Analysis of Chekhov's "Vanka"
By Christi White

"Dear Grandaddy..., I am writing you a letter...I have neither father nor mother, you alone are left me," a poor lonely boy writes his grandfather on Christmas eve with angst and pain. Alone, young Vanka Zhukov sat resting from a hard days work from his master's tyrinnacal orders. Vanka's parents had died while Vanka was still a child. He had been raised by his grandfather until age prevented his grandfather from doing so. Without a formal education, Vanka was forced to leave his grandfather. To obtain food and shelter, Vanka took a apprenticeship with a local shoemaker. His master, Alyahin, used Vanka as a slave instead of an understudy. Just one day prior, his master took Vanka outside to beat him. Vanka was accused f falling asleep while rocking the family's child. Although this was not a job for a apprentice, Vanka did odd jobs to appease the lord of the house. Unhappily, he stayed for he had no where else to turn. His master and the family had gone to Christmas Eve Mass for the evening. Vanka always took advantage of church time as a chance to rest and relax. He took out pen and paper to recall his feelings.

Vanka sat there and began to remember, for fond memories were the only escape from the job he called hell. His grandfather was the only family Vanka knew and his thoughts of the lovely old man were the only happiness he ever knew. Vanka kept a vivid and colorful memory of his grandfather. "Extraordinarily lively and nimble old man of about 65 whose face was always crinkled with laughter." Vanka began to reminisce of the good times he shared with hs grandfather. Called to his memory were the pets that his grandfather kept and how each of them had personalities of their own. "The old bitch, Brownie, and the dog called Wriggles, who had a balck coat and a long body like a weasel's, followed with him (grandfather) with hanging heads." These animals, for as palin as they sound, provided Vanka with much joy and livelieness. With his master, he found no such joy.

Vanka's slave master had no obvious respect for Vanka. Vanka tried to improve his performance when persecuted for his improper work ability, but not ever to the satisfaction his master. Too often Vanka was beaten or mistreated and he could not recall a day in weeks when he did not recieve bread and porrage as a meal. Exhausted and saddened, Vanka pleaded with his grandfather to remove him from the hands of the master.

In exchange for his freedom, Vanka promised his grandfather he would perform the tasks of his grandfather's everyday life in order to relieve the old man of his burden. Vanka fills his letter with promises and pleas. Vanka would give anything to avoid living with his master. As Vanka wrote, his mind slipped to warm memories that only drew him closer to the realization of his need to escape.

As Vanka finshed the letter, he sealed it in an envelope he had purchased with his last bit of change. Vanka had thought about mailing this letter and had asked men on the street about how he should mail the package. The men informed Vanka that all mail was sent out from the mail boxes. Vanka wrote the address:

To Grandfather in the village Vanka's ignorance did not allow him to correctly address the letter and was never delivered to his grandfather as a cry of help. With hopes, that night Vanka fell asleep into a dream-filled slumber of images of his grandfather.

Set in a time where poverty and slavery were common occurances, Vanka's situation was not abnormal or a rarity. Illnesses and death often left young children alone to defend themselves. Forced to work at a young age, Vanka did not recieve a formal education. The lack of education created a perpetual downfall for Vanka. The lack of education was what required him to obtain a job in a craft field. Lack of education was also the reason Vanka will never be rescued by his grandfather. This ignorance creates an ironic parallel between his lifew and his freedom. The unaddresses letter never reached his grandfather. His grandfather did not know of his grandson's living conditions.

An additional bit of irony can be found in the religious aspects of the master and his family. As brutal and harsh people, the family, both the master and the mistress abuse and take advantage of Vanka. After causing the child so much pain and torture, they attend church on a regular basis. of an understudy. Just one day prior, his master took Vanka outside to beat him. Vanka sat there and began to remember, for fond memories were the only escape from the job he did.

Analysis of Chekhov's "Vanka"
By Kim Guevara, Phil Stanwick, & Terra Bredeson

"Come to me dear Grandad . . . I beg you for Christ's sake take me away from here" (Matlaw 51). A desperate cry for help made by the orphaned nine year old Vanka Zhukov on Christmas Eve. Exhausted and abused, Vanka makes a desperate plea to his grandfather, Konstantin Makarich, a night watchman in an adjacent town, to take him away from his hell. Left on his own, after the untimely death of his parents, Vanka has been made an apprentice to a shoemaker who constantly abuses and underfeeds him. His last hope and means of escape lie within his last kinsman, his grandfather. The story focuses on the memories that Vanka tries to relive while writing a letter to his dear old grandfather.

Most kids really look up to their parents, and even siblings, to show them the facts of life. Children are dependent upon their parents for every basic necessity. Even things that people tend to forget, such as love, responsibilities, and a sense of belonging are taught by parents. Many children, fortunately, do not have to go through the pain of losing a parent. That usually happens when they are not children anymore, and are fully grown adults. If a child does not have proper guidance they have almost absolutely no chance at a healthy normal life. Vanilla could only make it through his dismal childhood by remembering what joy and happiness his grandfather had brought him.

This poses the question of how important memories can be to a person. When people get down, and depressed at the way life has been treating them the thing that can keep them going is a nice , sweet memory. For different people there are different memories that can bring joy. Perhaps a first kiss, or maybe the first time they went on an outdoor picnic. Whatever the event, people can even get lost in their memories, and sometimes have problems distinguishing between reality and memory. Many times people's lives are hard and almost unbearable, so people often enjoy their memories much more than the hard, unrelenting world. So what is a young child of the humble age of nine supposed to look for? All he has are the simple, happy times when he would be able to spend with his grandfather.

At the age of nine most children are spending their time playing with their friends, going to school, and having fun living their lives. The only memories that a child at the age of nine should have are happy ones. Granted, that many children do not have completely happy thoughts but to have no pleasant thoughts or memories of growing up would make life a completely miserable place to live.

Inspired only by the pleasant memories of his grandfather and his dog Eel, Vanka strives to make a better life for himself. This can only be achieved through his departure of the shoemaker's house to his grandfather's. The letter is simply address "To Konstantin Makarich." The reader is left to wonder if the letter addressed as so will ever reach it's proper destination. Were Vanka's efforts only done in vain? The matter of his emotional purging is the one thing that will keep Vanka's frame of mind intact. The idea of his grandfather receiving the letter rather than the actual act of it being received it will comfort Vanka immensely This in turn will give Vanka a reason for going on.

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Created by: Dan Piparo, Kim Guevara, Christi White, Phil Stanwick, Terra Bredeson
Copyright 1997 Danworld, Inc. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.