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الثلاثاء، 9 يونيو، 2015

"The Student" by Anton Chekhov

"The Student" by Anton Chekhov

This short story by Chekhov concerns a student who reflects on his own life and history and initially sees nothing but despair. As he sits by a fire and recounts the story of St. Peter from the Bible, and how he denied knowing Jesus three times, it seems as if he is a figure who is overtaken by despair and sorrow. However, after recounting the story, he sees that the truth within it provokes an emotional reaction in his audience, the old woman, Vasilisa, and her daughter, and this helps him to recognise that there is a much more optimistic way of looking at life and history, which is summed up in the quote identified in this question: ...he thought that truth and beauty which had guided human life there in the garden and in the yard of the high priest had continued without interruption to this day, and had evidently always been the chief thing in human life and in all earthly life, indeed... He recognises that the emotional reaction in response to this story is a sign of the "truth and beauty" that is present in human life throughout the ages, and this acknowledgement of the continuing existence of that truth and beauty gives him hope for his present and for his future, turning his despair in to optimism.
SummaryOn Good Friday a clerical student is walking home when he encounters two widows warming themselves around a fire. As the cold evening descends, he joins them and tells the story of the Apostle Peter, who the night before Jesus died was so afraid for his own skin that he denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. Afterwards, the Gospels say, he was filled with remorse and "went out and wept bitterly."
The two women are deeply moved by this tale; one of them starts to cry. The student suddenly experiences a connection between the story of Peter, 1900 years old, and the women and himself. He is filled with "the inexpressible sweet expectation of happiness, of unknown mysterious happiness . . . and life seemed to him enchanting, marvelous, and full of lofty meaning."
CommentaryThis simple story captures a profound mystical experience. The story tells of betrayal and remorse--a very human sequence but also offers the hope of forgiveness. Peter, after all, becomes one of the greatest of all saints. Human weakness and the need for redemption link us all, past, present, and future.
The student sees that the story touches his listeners--he experiences the power of the word to heal. "Insight" partially captures his experience, because it is a kind of "sight within," but his experience also verges on ecstasy, "a state of overwhelming emotion" or "rapturous delight."

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