Literature Annotations

Chekhov, Anton P.
The Student

On-Line Text
Genre Short Story (6 pp.)
KeywordsHuman Worth, Religion, Spirituality, Suffering

On 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."


This 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."

SourceThe Tales of Chekhov, Vol. 6: The Witch and Other Stories
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousTranslated from the Russian by Constance Garnett. First published in 1894.
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 07/05/99
Last Revised 05/27/03