Friday, April 9, 2010

The lottery ticket: An Analysis

The Author

Anton Chekhov was a Russian short-story writer, playwright and physician, considered to be one of the greatest short-story writers in the history of world literature. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practised as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress."

Chekhov renounced the theater after the disastrous reception of The Seagull in 1896; but the play was revived to acclaim in 1898 by Constantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theater, which subsequently also produced Uncle Vanya and premiered Chekhov’s last two plays, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. These four works present a challenge to the acting ensemble as well as to audiences, because in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a "theatre of mood" and a "submerged life in the text."

Chekhov had at first written stories only for the money, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.

Who are in the story?

The only characters in the story are Ivan Dmitrich and Masha, his wife. Ivan was barely done a characterization, neither by the narrator nor the other character. His persona in the beginning was revealed limitedly in the description:

“…he was a middle class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot…”

But as you read on with the story, through the so-many narrated monologues, it is gradually disclosed that he has qualities within himself that entirely contradict the description made of him by the narrator that he is very well satisfied with his lot in the opening of the story.

Masha, on the other hand, was not described in any way in the story but her thoughts, also through the narrated monologues, unveiled her qualities. At first, the couple’s reaction on the thought of winning the lottery is a delight, they still share to each other about buying an estate and putting the money left in the bank to gain interest and travelling, however, as the excitement of daydreaming and imagining that they actually won the 75,000 prize heightened up they were withdrawn into their own worlds and began feeling paranoia and resentments towards each other.

Ivan is the protagonist in the story and, in my opinion, although the conflict with Masha arose only within his thought, Masha can still be considered as his antagonist. She also serves as foil to Ivan in such a way that her taking chances in lottery luck, thus, her dissatisfaction in her way of living highlights Ivan’s “satisfaction” with his lot, as it was told, and vise versa.

The characters are multi-dimensional or dynamic because they both developed in the course of the narrative.

Minor characters such as the children who mere mentioned only twice and both showing their playfulness highlights Ivan’s love for serenity:

“…his little boy and girl are crawling about near him, digging in the sand or catching ladybirds in the grass. He dozes sweetly, thinking of nothing, and feeling all over that he need not to go to the office today, tomorrow, or the day after.”

“…the children would come running from the kitchen-garden, bringing a carrot and a radish smelling of fresh earth…and then, he would lie stretched full length on the sofa, and in leisurely fashion turn over the pages of some illustrated magazine, or, covering his face with it and unbuttoning his waistcoat, give himself up to slumber.”

The relatives, whom Ivan imagined would “whine like beggars”, highlights his unwillingness to share the wealth.


The setting of the story is the house of the couple. In the statement,

“…was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper…”

it connotes that Ivan is comfortable with the house he is living in but at the end of the story, after the fall of the high hopes and daydreams, the house was revealed to be dark and low-pitched. It does not necessarily mean that the house is indeed as bad as how they described it; probably the huge disappointment, paranoia, and hatred towards each other have wiped off their optimism toward their current living condition.


Money does not buy love; it destroys it. Before and in the beginning of the couple’s exciting moments of anticipation regarding the possible fortune, it was somehow pictured in the line,
“…she clears the table while he reads the newspaper on the sofa…”

that they are married long enough to have fallen into their respective routines and there was respect and love amidst the relationship. However, in the course of their daydreaming, because of Masha’s hope to travel too, Ivan’s feelings diverted into resentment towards her.


The climax of the story is where Ivan and Masha’s hatred towards each other stirred up in their hearts, and for Ivan to annoy Masha he quickly checked on the newspaper and disappointed her by reading out triumphantly that the winning combination was not alike to hers. The conflict was not actually resolved for though it was stated that, “…hope and hatred both disappeared at once…,” Ivan’s emotions was still in heat that he spoken out complaints which did dispute the statement that he is, “…very well satisfied with his lot.”


“The Lottery Ticket” is an open-ended story because the conflict was not really resolved in the ending. I wonder what happened next: did they just disregard or ignored all the pessimistic notions they had for each other? Were they able to really share to one another all of it?

In any relationships there are contributory factors that may better or worsen it. People involve are still in control of how and in what way they will allow these factors to affect their relationship. Anton Chekhov could have ended the story in such a way that will edify openness, respect, and selflessness to the readers, especially to married people.


Camella Joanna B. Capati said...

thanks for this :) im grateful ^^

SUNIL BABU.V said...

the story is very on story is helpful to incise the story to digest and understand the mastery of writer in characterization...
moreover story flashes light into the power of one can put a toll gate on the highways of imagination..above all it tells that money is power that can change your life.with which (money) you can make your senses work.......send me a comment on my comment

SUNIL BABU.V said...

.this new year may help you discover how ignorant we are about a meaningful life on earth

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