29 pages 58 minutes read

Anton Chekhov

At Home

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1897

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Literary Devices

Free Indirect Discourse

Chekhov’s stories are famous for their use of free indirect discourse, which is third-person narration that captures the voice and mannerisms of a character as mediated through an authorial voice. An important question to ask of stories like these is, who owns the words? When Alyona is first described as “a pale, rather stupid little thing,” the word “stupid” gestures toward Vera’s own voice and thoughts (Part 2, Paragraph 7), as the word “stupid” is used again when she thinks about Neshtchapov. Vera seems to own the words here, rather than the narrator.

The use of this device allows Chekhov to achieve a kind of narration that comes close to first person, delving deep into Vera’s thoughts, while still maintaining the authorial distance and control of traditional third-person narration. This distance between Vera and Chekhov is important in establishing a contrast between her unwillingness to change or reform the landowning system, and Chekov’s condemnation of Russian elites and their exploitation of the peasantry.


The Russian steppe figures prominently throughout “At Home.” When Vera first arrives in the countryside, she is anxious about exchanging her fashionable life in Moscow with the vast emptiness of the Russian steppe.