43 pages 1 hour read

Anton Chekhov

The Duel

Fiction | Novella | Adult | Published in 1891

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Chapters 1-4

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapters 1-4 Summary

Two government workers, Ivan Andreitch Laevsky, a clerk in the Ministry of Finance, and army doctor Alexandr Daviditch Samoylenko, have relocated to a southern seaside town. It is the late 19th century in the Caucauses, a region between the Baltic and Caspian seas colonized by the Russian empire. Other “officers, local officials, and the visitors,” constitute the local Russian community, which is introduced by their shared morning rituals (27).

Loosely following the perspective of Laevsky, the third-person narrator uses Laevsky’s breakfast meeting with Samoylenko to introduce Samoylenko’s key character trait as the contrast between a gruff exterior and his peacekeeping but simultaneously rank-sensitive nature. Samoylenko is a product of a hierarchical society. He is good-natured but within severe limits, acting submissively toward superiors and condescendingly toward inferiors.

Laevsky appeals to Samoylenko for advice on his cooled love affair with a married woman. Laevsky poses the question of leaving his mistress, Nadyezhda Fyodorovna, initially in vague philosophical terms, and this catches Samoylenko off-guard. Samoylenko responds that a man should do as he pleases. Notably, Laevsky presses the ethics of the matter, rejecting Samoylenko’s suggestion to pay his mistress off like a sex worker.