The Code of Pain in Chekhov

In: Knowledge and Pain

Chekhov’s works exhibit a distinctive pattern of references to human suffering that corresponds to his reserve in matters concerning his personal life. Signals of the pain and suffering of his characters represent an understated but identifiable code that allows the audience to interpret the meaning of the characters’ muted emotions. Chekhov was especially sensitive to inconspicuous human pain, hushed despair and humiliation of those who were unable to express their grief due to a lack of confidence and of a sense of their own worth. The code emerges as a strand of literary devices, often perceived as incongruities, which signal that we are confronted with the unutterable. This article offers an inventory of discursive elements that occur in disturbing situations and convey unease without naming its reasons.

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