Being unable to fully fit in a society where most of the people tend to behave and act in a similar way should be challenging and even distressful. Chekhov’s “The Man in the Shell” – told by a third person narrator- is a short story that from my standpoint talks about the idea above. Belikov, who is the character constantly struggling to live in mind-peace with his surrounding, is described as “temperamentally unsociable, who tries to withdraw into a shell like a hermit crab or a snail”. However, are there more people who under certain circumstances can be qualified like him, or is he the only one?
Belikov’s behavior and ideas are brought to us by Burkin, the character who was telling the story. According to him, Belikov was a man who lived under very strict ideas of how life should be taken. Always acting by the rules and if by any means something happened to be off his believes, he would get nervous, agitated, and most likely would start a whole drama out of that situation. That is why Belikov constantly tried not to have too much social interaction, be very cautious, and aware of what people did around him. As Burkin said, “the man showed a constant and irrepressible inclination to keep a covering about himself…..which would isolate him and protect him from outside influences.” Not only was he a man with many “prohibitions” and “restrictions”, but also he was afraid of his acquaintances just like they were afraid of him.
However, Burkin was not trying to say that Belikov was a rare or unique type of human being; in fact, he gave some possible explanations to understand Belikov’s behavior. He said that perhaps it is just a matter of “atavism” which is the tendency to continue or imitate customs of earlier ways of living, or maybe it is only the fact of not being sociable enough, or might be “only one of the varieties of human character.”
To support this idea, Burkin and his friend also talk about another person who might be described as a