Not a Nincompoop?

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A look at “A Nincompoop” by Anton Chekhov

In day-to-day life, there are often incidents or even common behaviours demonstrated by some that lead others to believe that the person is a nincompoop. Some of those who have been called a Nincompoop possess certain characteristics that a typical Nincompoop exhibits. However, the previous statement does not apply to Anton Chekhov’s real nincompoop in the short story “A Nincompoop.” This short story deals with an employer teaching the governess of his children a lesson about asserting herself when others are trying to exploit or abuse her. Chekhov chooses one of his two characters, the governess, to convincingly mislead one’s opinion about the real nincompoop, but surprisingly, it is the liberal and idealistic character, the employer, who truly embodies the nincompoop in this satire. The identity of the nincompoop can only be discovered through analyzing both characters’ backgrounds, reactions and way of thinking. As mentioned above, there are typical characteristics that are usually related to a nincompoop and the governess represents most of those: a weak, defenseless and speechless fool. The question is, is she really a nincompoop or she pretends to be one as a survival technique to keep/save her job? If one pays enough attention to the story between the lines, the answer to that question will be an easy one to find. Although she is shocked and her reactions are weak and submissive, it is the harsh reality or the thought of losing her job that forces her to obey and not to oppose. On the other hand, the employer is a wealthy and powerful man. He is a liberal and idealistic thinker who tries to change the world of common men through his teachings. In this short story, the employer takes on the role of a teacher and the governess is, to some extents, forced to become the student. However, this good-intentioned effort is jeopardized by making various mistakes from the employer’s side in choosing...
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