How to Squeeze the Slave Out of The System: Anton Chekhov on Anton Chekhov
Write a story about a young man, the son of a former serf, and a small shopkeeper by profession, who sang in the church choir; who, as a schoolboy, was brought up to show reverence for the officials, to kiss the hands of priests, to bow before the opinions of others, to be thankful for every slice of bread he ate.
Write a story about this youth, who has been flogged many a time, who had no overshoes to put on in winter as he trudged through the snow to give his coaching lessons; who fought other boys; who tortured animals; who liked having meals at his wealthy relatives’ house; who played a part before God and men for no reason at all, perhaps for no other reason but the awareness of his personal insignificance.
Describe how this young man gradually, bit by bit, squeezed the slavish self out of his system, and how he awoke one fine morning feeling that real human blood was flowing through his veins, instead of the blood of slaves.
The young man is Anton Chekhov - first of the freed Russian generations.
Chekhov better than anyone described how the human problem is not in the times or rulers but in ourselves, that we accept enslavement. Every middle class person has risen from peasants and slaves.
Only Chekhov expresses the hidden moral dimension of the middle class - the reality that each person must make something decent of themselves through their own efforts, no matter what their origins. Middle class decency is not protestant or orthodox or hindu, but simply the recognition that all free souls must earn their freedom.
"I gradually squeezed the slavish self out of my system, and woke one fine morning feeling that real human blood flowed through my veins instead of the blood of slaves"
What a magnificent sentence!