A Story About Love

Everyone wants to know about love.  What is love?  Why aren’t we loved?  Why do we fall in love and how can that person possibly love him or her?  Why didn’t I come first?  These are questions, which Chekhov raises in his story “About Love”. “About Love”, is an alluring story within a story by Anton Chekhov.  On a wet rainy evening, when all there is to do is tell stories, Ivan Ivanich and Burkin gather together and listen to their friend, Alekhin, the country farmer, tell about the time he fell in love.  Alekhin describes how he befriended Luganovich, an important, well-to-do gentleman, and his wife Anna of the village Sofino.  The first time he is invited to their home for dinner Alekhin is impressed by the grace, beauty and intellect of Anna who is 22 years old and has one child by her husband.  That summer while working on his farm, the memory of Anna remains etched on his mind. After the summer Alekhin returns to the married couple’s home and subtly informs Anna that she has made a profound impression on him.  Her feelings are mutual. Alekhin returns many times to the home and becomes close friends with Anna and her husband.  The couple is so faithful to their friend, that they give him many presents.  When Alekhin’s estate is not producing and he goes further and further into debt, the couple even offers him loans to lift his financial burden. As time passes Anna continues to bear the children of her husband while her and Alekhin’s love for each other deepens. There is no demonstrative show of their love, however they do attend the theater together on a regular basis.  Sitting beside each other at the theater and sharing the ‘opera glass’ are the only forms of physical closeness they have with each other.  Naturally the coming and going to the theater attracts the wonder of the public and it becomes so usual that everyone in the village probably knows deep down what is going on. A few years go by in this way.  Alekhin and Anna, although satisfied to spend time together, are very unhappy that the pressures of society prevent them from being openly in love. In there own way they become melancholic. In their mutual silence, they know that they cannot have each other completely.  Anna becomes progressively distraught and saddened knowing she has lived a married life to someone she does not love.  She unfortunately acquires an illness, which forces her to go to a place to be taken care of.  Her husband and children also move out of the home and the entire family leaves the village. After everyone has said good-bye, Anna is in the compartment alone waiting for the train to leave. Alekhin sees she has left a package behind, so he picks it up, goes to her on the train, and gives it to her.  They are both very sad because they know it is the last time they will see each other. Chekhov, through Alekhin, questions “How love is born”.  “So far only one incontestable truth has been uttered about love: ‘This is a great mystery.’”  Alekhin regrets while parting ways with Anna all that has prevented them from loving: He thinks to himself, “ I understood that when you love you must either in your reasonings about that love, start from what is highest, from what is more important than happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue in their accepted meaning, or you must not reason at all.” Chekhov, in his mastery for description of complex human relationships, poses questions in 1898, which continue to perplex us 100 plus years later in the 21st century. Love and happiness are two aspects of life he explores.  As we search for answers about love, Alekhin says:  “Everything else that has been written or said about love is not a conclusion, but only a statement of questions which have remained unanswered.”   I believe, if one has ever been secretly or openly in love, in one way or another, that this story will bring tears to their eyes.