Howard is an avid short story reader who likes to help others find and understand stories.
Anton Chekhov is widely considered one of the best short story writers ever. Although he died at age 44, he wrote around 300 short stories as well as plays and longer stories.
Many of Chekhov's stories are easy to find online.
The selections on this page are divided into the following categories:
- Very short
- Other notable stories
There's a short teaser for each story. You should be able to get a sense of what it's all about. I hope you find something good to read.
Best Short Stories
Here are some stories that are among Chekhov's best known or are considered his best.
Alehin is with some friends who are talking about love. He tells his own story. After finishing university, he went home to pay off the debt on his father's farm. He rises in his hometown and is elected to an honorary position. He meets Luganovitch, vice-president of the circuit court, and his young wife, Anna. He finds her very attractive. He starts thinking of her frequently.
Anyuta lives in a cheap hotel room with a third-year medical student, Klotchkov. He's trying to learn and memorize anatomy. Anyuta has lived with five other men like him; they all left her behind when they moved on to a better life.
Bishop Pyotr is tired and unwell. While at an evening service, he sees his mother, Marya, or a woman who looks just like her. He hasn't seen her in nine years and is moved by the experience. When he arrives home, he's informed that his mother visited earlier with a grandchild and would come back tomorrow.
"A Day in the Country"
A young girl runs through the street frantically looking for Terenty the cobbler. Her brother has gotten his arm stuck in a tree and there’s a storm coming. They set out together for the forest and talk about nature.
The narrator waits for a ferry to cross the river to attend an Easter service. It's late in arriving. The monk who works on the ferry, Ieronim, is mourning the death of his friend, a fellow monk. They talk on the way.
Ivan Ivanich tells the story of his brother, Nicholai. He became obsessed with buying a small farm with gooseberry bushes near some water. He saved his money and married an old, ugly widow because she had money. They lived cheaply; he didn't even allow her enough food. When she died three years later, he started looking for an estate.
"The House With the Mezzanine"
Lydia Volchaninov is occupied with the local government, particularly in helping the masses. Her sister, Genya, doesn't do anything serious; she reads all day and is otherwise idle. The narrator, a landscape painter, becomes acquainted with them. Lydia doesn't like him because he doesn't support her causes. He and Genya get along well.
A hunter, Yegor, lazily walks down a country road on a stifling day. A woman, Pelagea, gets his attention and walks with him. She wants Yegor to come visit sometime. He doesn't see the point in it.
General von Rabbek invites a group of soldiers to his home for a dinner party. The men get the feeling that the invitation was extended out of obligation rather than desire. One of the officers, Ryabovitch, is shy and undistinguished. He tries to find ways of passing the time. After an unsuccessful attempt at playing billiards, he makes his way back to the drawing-room. He takes a wrong turn and ends up in a dark room. A woman who's pleased to see him enters.
"The Lady With the Dog"
Dmitri is on vacation in Yalta. He notices an attractive young lady walking a little dog by the sea-front. Dmitri has a wife and children but he wants to meet this woman. He's been unfaithful many times, and doesn't think highly of women. When the opportunity arises, he breaks the ice with her. They start seeing each other.
"The Man in a Case"
Burkin tells the story of Byelikov, a narrow-minded teacher obsessed with following the rules. He makes a nuisance of himself in his town due to his views and presence. A new teacher, Kovalenko, is assigned to the area. He's accompanied by his sister, Varinka, who's open and friendly. The locals think she'd be a good match for Byelikov.
"On the Road"
A large man and a young girl are stopping over in the traveler's room of a tavern. They've had a difficult trip, including an intoxicated driver, stolen bags and a snow storm. A lady arrives with her coachman, forced inside by the storm. The young girl is unhappy. The man and lady strike up a conversation. He talks about the various beliefs he's held and the women in his life.
The Uskov family gather privately to discuss a serious matter. Sasha Uskov, a young man, cashed a forged promissory note and payment is due. His uncles discuss their options—paying it off for the sake of family honor or leaving the offender to face the consequences in court.
"The Requiem (Panikhida)"
Andrei Andreich, a shopkeeper, lingers in church after mass. Father Grigory is upset. He calls Andreich over. He shows him a note which Andreich admits to writing. The priest doesn't approve of the choice of words in the note, which was read out in church. Andreich doesn't see the problem.
Yakov is a coffin-maker in a very small town. Business is bad. In addition, his religious beliefs prevent him from working on many days. He lives in a little hut with his wife, Marfa. He also makes a little money playing the fiddle in an orchestra. Yakov often thinks of the many losses he suffers. Marfa gets very sick and believes she's dying.
Varka is a thirteen-year-old servant girl. She's up trying to rock and sing the baby to sleep. Varka is tired. She works all day around the house. When she nods off briefly, she dreams of her sad history.
"A Trivial Incident"
The narrator is out hunting birds with a prince who's come down in the world. He's poor, unmarried, and has no relatives or friends. They encounter a stranger who identifies himself as the head clerk of Madame Kandurin's estate, of which the forest they are in is a part. She doesn't allow shooting on her land. They've come a long way. They decide to seek her permission.
Vanka is an orphan boy of nine. He's been apprenticed to a shoemaker for three months. He secretly writes a letter to his grandfather, of whom he has pleasant memories. He wants to go live with him. He's mistreated in various ways and can't bear it.
Very Short Stories
The following two stories are very short. There are a few shorter selections below that are marked with an *.
"On Mortality: A Carnival Tale"
Court Counsellor Podtikin sits at the dinner table impatiently waiting for his meal. The table is full of alcohol, fish and various toppings, but the bliny hasn't been served yet. When it finally arrives he prepares his plate with gusto.
A doctor reveals how to cure a few ailments—a cold, head-spinning, arsenic poisoning and coughing.
Humorous Short Stories
Here are some Chekhov stories that are comic or humorous, often because they draw attention to a human failing.
There's a disturbance in the street as police superintendent Otchumyelov is walking nearby. A man seizes a dog that had bitten him. A crowd gathers. The man explains how he was wronged. The superintendent tries to identify the guilty party.
*"The Death of a Government Clerk"
A government clerk, Ivan, is at the opera. He sneezes, accidentally spattering the man in front of him. The man is head of another department. Ivan's evening is ruined. He apologizes and the man doesn't make a big deal over the incident. Ivan becomes obsessed that there will be some consequences for his faux pas.
*"Fat and Thin"
Two former schoolmates meet at a train station. They're very happy to see each other. They catch up with each other's lives. Everything is perfectly relaxed until a certain detail is revealed. Then one of the men changes his attitude.
*"Goat or Scoundrel"
A young woman sleeps on a couch in the drawing room. An old man enters the room, admires her, takes her hand, and kisses it.
"A Horsey Name"
Bulddeef has a toothache. He's tried every remedy he knows. It keeps getting worse. It has to come out but Bulddeef wants to avoid that. His steward, Ivan, advises him to try a conjurer. He knew one who could cure toothaches. They decide to send him a telegram. Unfortunately, Ivan can't remember the man's surname.
"A Letter to a Learned Neighbor"
A older nobleman writes a letter to his neighbor of the past year, a scientist. He would like to meet the man because he also has an interest in scientific things. He points out that he disagrees with the scientist in a few important areas.
Denis Grigoriev is brought before a magistrate after being spotted by the watchman stealing nuts from the rails. Grigoriev is questioned about his crime, and he explains himself.
"Oh! The Public"
Podtyagin decides he's done with drinking. He throws himself into his work as a ticket collector. Although it's very late, he wakes his crew and starts inspecting the tickets of the tired and confused train passengers.
Wedding festivities are in full swing at Serge's house. His daughter is getting married. Late at night, he goes to the kitchen to see if everything is ready. The cook, Marfa, is working hurriedly. Serge smacks his lips over the food. A nearby usher hears the sound and makes a joke. Serge is concerned that he's going to spread rumors.
"A Work of Art"
Sasha, the only son of his mother, enters the office of Dr. Koshelkov. The doctor has just seen him through a bad illness. His family doesn't have much money, so he's brought an antique candelabra as a gift. It's decorated with some figures that make it inappropriate for display.
Other Notable Stories
Here are some more notable Chekhov stories for you to browse.
"Anna on the Neck"
Anna and Alexietch are newly married. He's fifty-two and she's eighteen. Anna didn't want to marry him. Her family is very poor so she agreed to it. As the new couple travel by train, she wonders if her father and brothers have any food. She puts up with this uninteresting man to avoid falling back into poverty.
An old banker remembers a dinner party he'd given fifteen years before. The guests started talking about capital punishment. Most of those present were against it. The banker argued that capital punishment was preferable to life in prison. A young lawyer thought they were both immoral but that imprisonment was the better option. The banker got excited about the argument. He wagered two million rubles that the lawyer couldn’t stay isolated for fifteen years.
Olenka falls in love with Kukin, a theater owner who complains to her of the difficulties of his profession. They marry and she helps with the theater. She tells people it's the most important thing in the world. When Kukin goes to Moscow on business, she has a difficult time getting by without him. He gets delayed.
Kirilov is the district doctor. His only son, six years old, has just died of diphtheria. He and his wife are in despair. There's a knock at the door. A man, Abogin, is in desperate need of a doctor. His wife is very ill. Kirilov is too grieved to help. He refuses to go. Abogin implores him to assist.
Vania and Nina, young siblings, hear that the cat has had kittens. They're very excited. They spend all their time with the new creatures, neglecting their usual activities. The other family members care little for them or find them in the way.
Dmitri Ionitch is appointed district doctor. He makes the acquaintance of the Turkins, the most cultivated and talented family in the area. He meets their eighteen-year-old daughter, Ekaterina, who's beautiful and plays the piano. Dmitri gets busy with his work and can't visit for some time. Eventually, he goes back to attend to a migraine. He soon finds another reason to visit.
Iona Potapov, a sledge-driver, is out at twilight. He's motionless and bent over. Business has been slow. He's not quick to respond when he finally does get a passenger. He's coping with a recent, devastating loss.
The Chairman has held up his peers in court due to his dissenting opinion. It must be officially recorded before they can leave. It's getting late and everyone is hungry. They start talking about food.
Nevyrazimov writes a congratulatory note to a higher-ranking man whom he doesn't really care for. A lowly government clerk, his office is small, dirty and bug-ridden. It's Easter Eve and others are outside having a drink or going to a service while he's stuck at work. He resents his position.
Ivan, a student at a clerical academy, returns home after a day shooting. It's Good Friday so he hasn't eaten. He's very hungry. Not eager to go home, he sees a camp fire and decides to stop. Two widows are there, working and warming themselves after supper. The Apostle Peter comes to his mind. He tells the story of his denial of Jesus.
Ognev remembers the time he stayed at Kuznetsov's place when he was doing some research. He thanked Kuznetsov profusely for his hospitality, praising him and his daughter, Vera. They had an emotional goodbye. When Ognev reached the gate, Vera was waiting for him. He expresses a similar farewell to her. She says she'll walk with him for a while.