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At Home- Anton Chekov- A brief explanation

At Home is a very meaningful story with a message by Anton Chekov.

The two main themes of the story are parent-child relationship and education of children. The two main characters of the story are Eugene Bikovsky, a lawyer, and his seven year old little son, Seriozha. The latter is entrusted to the care of a governess for he has lost his mother.

The story begins at the point when the experienced lawyer learns one evening that his little son has been smoking. It amuses him to picture the little one smoking, but the deeper problem is how to convey to him that he should not smoke.

Bikovsky does not believe in punishments because he feels that “punishment is in many cases, more productive of evil than crime itself.” Bikovsky however prepares to talk to his son wondering what to tell and how. When they meet Bikovsky finds that his son has no awareness at all of any sense of guilt. He is not at all aware that he has committed any mistake by smoking! Bikovsky is dumbfounded! Though he strikes up a conversation with his son he soon realizes that Seriozha is in a different world altogether. The little child has his own line of thinking; he cannot be conquered by logic. Bikovsky feels the absence of the mother figure in his little son’s life:

“… nothing can replace the mother in education, because she is able to feel and weep and laugh with her children. Nothing can be accompanied by logic and ethics.”

Bikovsky finds it laughable and strange that though he is a seasoned lawyer he cannot drive home to his son the apparently simple fact that smoking is bad for him. When Bikovsky tells his son to give him a word of honour, the latter starts singing it out! The tenderness of his son’s features and his innocent childhood appeal strongly to Bikovsky and charm him. He knows he cannot be harsh to his son or punish the little kid.

Finally, Bikovsky decides to tell Seriozha a story that will convey the message that smoking is bad. He tells the story of a little prince who started smoking and then fell ill and died. The story impacts Seriozha greatly and he promises not to smoke again. But Seriozha himself is also now drawn to philosophise. He wonders that why is it that truth cannot be presented in a raw form, but always sugar-coated?

At Home is a very thought-provoking story that moves from the domain of daily realities into the realm of philosophy- the philosophy of childhood, parenting, the relationship between art and life and the mode of child-education.

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