A short story by Russian novelist Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904).

    Seeking shelter from the rain, Burkin and Ivan Ivanovich arrive in Alehin's house in the country. After being introduced to the premises and familiarized with the setting, they both sit down to drink some tea. As the converstaion begins, Ivan begins to relate the tale of his brother, Nikolay, who worked as a government functionary and always dreamed of saving enough money to buy his own country home with a garden and gooseberries. Nikolay's life is described in a monotonous drone reflective of how dull it must actually have been. He describes in detail the home Nikolay plans, the goal of his entire life. One would expect that if one's dream were this uninteresting and lusterless, then one's lifelong striving toward that goal would deprive any sane man of the will to live. Disappointingly, this does not hold true for Nikolay. He strives hard for his goal, skimping always and saving every penny towards his ultimate goal of absolute boredom. He even marries a rich widow, "without any trace of affection for her," in order to obtain some additional resources. The story is interrupted by half a page of Ivanovich digression concerning a totally unrelated affair involving a merchant consuming his money. While this does not affect the abysmally low interest level the story holds for the reader, it does serve to avert one's attention from Nikolay's hideously boring existence for a few seconds before Ivanovich mercilessly continues: After starving the poor woman to death and gleefully claiming all of her fortune, he eventually amasses enough to actually purchase the sought-after estate.

    Ivan then relates his last encounter with Nikolay. The new estate owner had grown both confident and corpulent. Nikolay claims to be happy with his life and with his vast amount of gooseberries from the planted bushes. Ivan Ivanovich also realizes his own happiness, yet also drawing some sadness from the fact that people continue to be happy despite dismal moral conditions surrounding them. His acknowledgement that, no matter how happy one is now, "life will show him her laws sooner or later, trouble will come for him," presents a completely opposite message with the one presented in his story. His earlier statement about desire and drive to succeed have almost no connection with his later moral commentary, pleading to his hosts, "Don't be calm and contented! Don't let yourself be put to sleep!"

    There are three life-altering lessons to be learned from Chekhov's little "masterpiece." The first message states that if one sets one's focus in life so sharply on one goal, that one will inevitably miss some of the finer points in life. The second is more of a moral pleading that one needs to consider the hurt and suffering in the world before being mindlessly content and happy. In direct contrast to the mindless and happy state, the third message of the novel is that the reader should be aware that all russian novels are hopelessly depressing and almost debilitatingly boring.

Thank God he's dead.

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