29 pages 58 minutes read

Anton Chekhov

At Home

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1897

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The Pursuit of Happiness

One of the main themes of “At Home” is the pursuit of happiness. When Vera first arrives in the countryside, she thinks “happiness [is] near at hand, and perhaps [is] here already” (Part 1, Paragraph 20). The narrator notes that anyone would have envied Vera’s circumstances as wealthy, young, well-educated, and a landowner. Vera does not even think about marriage as part of her formula for happiness; rather, she dreams of being a doctor, scientist, or judge. Neither she nor the narrator specify how the freedom of the steppe connects with her professional dreams; Auntie Dasha mentions that “there are lots of engineers, doctors, and mine managers” (Part 1, Paragraph 19) nearby as a result of the factory’s construction, but Vera never plans for her future, and that is the first sign that she will not achieve her dreams.

At first, Vera thinks she will find happiness in the steppe’s expansive natural beauty. As she drives through the countryside on her way to the estate, she feels “as though she would have been glad to drive like that all her life, looking at the steppe” (Part 1, Paragraph 8). However, this is a passive happiness.