29 pages 58 minutes read

Anton Chekhov

At Home

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1897

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Symbols & Motifs

The Steppe

The steppe is the first image in “At Home,” and it comes to symbolize the vast emptiness of Vera’s provincial life. As Vera arrives, she sees “by degrees there are unfolded before one views such as one does not see near Moscow--immense, endless, fascinating in their monotony” (Part 1, Paragraph 1). At first, Vera views the steppe as freedom, a space where she is free to choose the best life for herself, but its emptiness comes to haunt her as an “endless plain, all alike, without one living soul,” (Part 1, Paragraph 20). The monotony of the steppe is no longer fascinating, and the immense nothingness begins to wear on Vera. She arrives in spring, when everything is in bloom, but after spending the winter there, she can only think of “the long winters, the monotony and dreariness of life” (Part 3, Paragraph 19) that the steppe offers.

The steppe is the largest geographic feature of central Russia, stretching across the Eurasian continent. In the story, it represents the Russian countryside, away from both the forests and the cities. The steppe’s vastness echoes the vastness of Russia—at that time, the Russian Empire—which in 1895 covered 8.8 million square miles and was the third largest empire in history.