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My Life

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My Life

by Anton Chekhov

Genre: Drama
Setting:
Format of Original Source: Novella
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising

EXCERPT:

But chiefly I was afraid of falling in love. Whether walking in the street, or working, or talking to my mates, I thought all the time of going to Maria Victorovna’s in the evening, and always had her voice, her laughter, her movements with me. And always as I got ready to go to her, I would stand for a long time in front of the cracked mirror tying my necktie; my serge suit seemed horrible to me, and I suffered, but at the same time, despised myself for feeling so small.”

SPARKSNOTES: Subtitled “The Story of a Provincial” this tale deals with the life of Misail Poloznev, a young gentleman who renounces the “privilege of capital and education” in favor of earning his living through manual labor. Misail’s architect father despairs of his son’s pedestrian ambitions and beats him for refusing to work as a clerk. But Misail stands firm in his goals, even when his sister Kleopatra begs him to reconsider. First published in censored form in 1896, this tale is one of Chekhov’s longest and most politically contentious, as Donald Rayfield notes. It draws on common themes such as the town/country divide, self-realization through trial and hardship, and the disillusionment of failed ideals.



COMMENTS:

With his signature meditations on human society and relationships and his rich and vivid language, Chekov authors another timeless story: a young gentleman named Misail Poloznev renounces his privileged upbringing preferring manual labor to the chagrin of his architect father who later disinherits him. Misail, firm in his convictions, falls in love with and marries Masha who admires his idealism but the marriage is short lived for Masha’s intentions prove to be less altruistic and more self-serving. When it first was published, the perennial concerns which this novella addresses hit a nerve in the general reader with its broad themes of class divides, self-realization, and idealized versus actual reality.  An adaptation would either need to plant itself firmly as a period piece, or figure out how to modernize its 19th-century issues.


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