http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/achekhov/bl-achek-misery.htmABSTRACT - ANTON CHEKHOV – MISERY 1886 Penguin Books. One of the bleakest, most pessimistic short stories of all time, by the Great Russian dramatist who gave us The Cherry Orchard. At the height of a Russian winter, in a snowstorm, Iona Potapov, a Sleigh driver, drowns in despair and sorrow as he waits for someone to hire his services. He sits covered in snow, and almost uncaring about it. He is full of nervous ticks and twitches, and seems to be bordering on mental and emotional collapse. A passenger suddenly hires him. He finds himself transporting an impatient man, an army officer, who criticises his driving at every turn. That Iona is not totally concentrating on the road is clear too. Iona tries to tell his passenger that his son recently died. Initially, the officer seems sympathetic, and willing to hear more, but as Iona turns his attention from the road to tell more of his story, the officer becomes more impatient, and the moment is lost
. Iona now picks up three obnoxious drunks, one of who is a twisted dwarf. They taunt and jibe Iona, and make it clear that they will not even pay him the full fare for their journey.
They flick things at the back of his neck as he drives. He tries to tell them about his son, but they clearly don’t care. They are just out for their own fun. Iona now decides to stop work for the night and takes his horse back to the stable yard. He sees another sleigh driver who is in need of water and gets him some. Iona tries to tell the man his sad, terrible story of grief, but the man makes no effort to listen. Iona now starts to pour his heart out to his horse for lack of human compassion. The story ends. It’s a tale about poor communication, and how people become so full of their own needs that they show no consideration for the desperation of others. The reader will want to hear Iona’s story and show a caring tone, but we are not part of the story ourselves. We do not hear what he tells the horse, but we know that it must be very sad indeed. It’s a simple, haunting and highly effective story, which is as powerful now as when it was written in 1886