Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov


In Act One of IVANOV by Anton Chekhov, Nikolay Alexeyevich Ivanov says

“Well, five years have passed, and she [his wife] still loves me, but I…Here you are, telling me she’s soon going to die, and I don’t feel any love or pity but just a sort of indifference and lassitude…”

While this language may suggest that Ivanov is melodramatic he is nothing but deeply depressed and disturbed.

To a modern reader, the first two acts and Ivanov’s honest declarations may appear false and insincere. But closer and further reading suggests the opposite. Ivanov does not love his sick wife because he does not love anything anymore. In Act Three, he says

“I knew what inspiration was then, I knew charms and poetry of those quiet nights when you sit at your desk working from sunset till dawn, or just sit and muse, and dream.”

Even though he’s only thirty five, he feels old and the soliloquy suggests a deep depression and a longing for his long lost youth. He struggles with the idea of watching his wife die but cannot bring himself to love or care for her. He feels nothing and it is this nothing that upsets him most. Unlike melodramatics, Ivanov is aware of his true feelings and is not playing them up. He refers to himself as Hamlet in at least three instances throughout the play but it is in Act Four that his words ring the most true.

Suicide is sometimes viewed by people with depression as the only way out of their particular situation. The language at the end of Act Four suggests that Ivanov sees no other alternatives:

“To realize that your life’s energy has gone for ever, that you’ve got rusty and stuck up to your neck in disgusting bog of melancholy…I still have some pride and conscious left.”

His suicide in the final line of the play further reiterates the idea that he is not merely pretending to be a victim but, in reality, is one.

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