There are four methods of indirect characterization:
- through the character's actions
- through the character's thoughts, feelings, and speeches
- through the character's the comments and reactions of other characters
- through a physical description of the character
Here are three examples of indirect characterization:
In Chekhov's "A Problem" Sasha Uskov has cashed a false promissory note and his actions have caused embarrassment to his family.
- The reactions of other characters
The uncles of Sasha are meeting to discuss what should be done about Sasha's actions. One uncle, who is a colonel, proposes that they let Sasha pay the legal penalty for his actions while other relatives are considering covering the promissory note. He tells them,
Who says that family honour is a mere convention?....I am only warning you against a false view; I am pointing out the possibility of an unpardonable mistake.
Another uncle, Ivan Markovitch, wants to protect the family honour; also, he is sympathetic toward Sasha:
He began with saying that youth has its rights and its peculiar temptations. Which of us has not been young, and who has not been led astray?
- The character's thoughts, feelings, and speeches
Sasha feels that "Criminal" is a horrible word and he rationalizes his behavior thinking, "...that is what murderers, thieves, robbers are; in fact, wicked and morally hopeless people." He feels that debt is not a crime; after all, his uncle Ivan Markovitch and the Colonel are in debt.
When his family finally decides to pay his promissory note and prevent him from criminal charges, Sasha is relieved. However, rather than thank his uncle Ivan Markovitch, whose eyes are tear-stained, he begins to think about his friend Von Burst, who will be celebrating his name day and how he wants to join him and his other friends. Excited, he demands one hundred rubles. When his uncle is astounded and falls back in horror at Sasha's menacing tone, Sasha almost attacks him, threatening to give himself up to the authorities and embarrass the family, or even write another false promissory note.
His uncle hands him the money; later, Sasha thinks to himself, "Now I see that I am a criminal; yes, I am a criminal."
Transcript of "A Problem" by Anton Chekhov
"A Problem" by Anton Chekhov
Sasha forged an IOU which causes disturbance in family
Paternal uncles are focused on saving the family name
Markovitch thinks Sasha needs a second chance
Uncles discuss what to do with Sasha in the dining room
Sasha listens from the hallway
Anton Chekhov's Life
Born Jan 17, 1860 in Taganrog, Russia
Lived in Russia for entire life
His parents left when he was 16
Studied medicine and later got into literature
Liked to travel
Died of TB on July 2, 1904
Group: Anna, Anish, Noah, Kim
Protagonist who cashes a false promissory note
No parental guidence
Sasha's maternal uncle
He thinks that Sasha should be punished in hopes that he will reform
One of Sasha's paternal uncles
Focused on keeping family honor
Does not want to forgive Sasha
The Official of the Treasury
Sasha's other paternal uncle
Does not want the case to become public because it might hurt the family name
Sasha does not believe he is a criminal and does not care about his future
The uncles decide to spare Sasha
He must work with Ivan in the country
Sasha bribes money from Ivan and is in debt once again
Sasha realizes he is a criminal
Protecting and sticking up for family members is more important than what people think of you. (Blood is thicker than water).
A criminal's mind may not understand the criminal-like actions that they have done.
Honor- Honor is an important concept in the story, because the family honor of the Uskovs is the main reason why his three uncles are trying to decide what to do about Sasha’s forged IOU. The family honor is important to the members of the Uskov family, and they do not want to see it ruined because of what Sasha did.
Criminal- In the story, Sasha tries to determine whether he is a criminal or not. This is important to the story because it is arguable whether or not he is a criminal.
What does the title mean?
Sasha's actions cause "a problem" in the family. The entire story is focused around what to do about the problem that was caused by Sasha when he forged the IOU.
The uncles have problems deciding what to do with Sasha
Sasha has a problem understanding he is a criminal
Awards and Recognition
Elected into Literary Fund in 1887
October 1888 he won the Academy of Sciences' Pushkin Prize
His works were not particularly famous until after his death.
How does this relate to his style?
Chekhov writes about his traveling experiences
In "A Problem" Sasha has no parental guidance, much like Chekhov after his parents left.
Anti-hero is when the protagonist has non-hero like qualities
Chekhov uses anti-hero in the characterization of Sasha
Helps the reader understand Sasha's "criminality."
Third-Person Limited Point of View
When the story is told by an outside voice with knowledge of one character's thoughts and feelings
A major part of the story is devoted to Sasha's thoughts on his criminality
This emphasizes the theme of criminality
Something happens that goes against what the reader thought would happen
The readers think Sasha will reform after he is given a second chance
When he does not it helps the reader understand that he is a criminal
You are looking to hire one new worker at the factory you own. You interviewed a very capable young man for the position. However, your son, who dropped out of high school, is also looking for a job. You know nobody else will hire him and he needs a way to make a living. Who do you hire? If you hire your son, how would the other man feel? If you hire the other man, how do you think would your son react?
You, your sister, and a friend were supposed to be going to a concert next weekend, however, now your sister is grounded. She has to stay home, and she asked you if you want to stay home and have a movie night. You can stay home with your sister and leave your friend to go to the concert alone, or you can go to the concert and let your sister stay home by herself.
You are the principal of the elementary school that your fifth-grader sons attend. You find out that they and some of their friends have been misbehaving at recess. You can punish them and their friends with lunch-detention, and have all of the teachers know that your children misbehave. Or you can punish them at home, so your reputation as a father will not be ruined.
You are the coach of your niece's high school soccer team. During one of the games, your niece is playing really poorly. You can bench her for the benefit of the team and risk upsetting her, or you can let her play so she won't be offended.
You are President of the United States. Your son is caught stealing merchandise from a local store. You can cover for him so your presidency isn't affected and risk him never learning his lesson. Or you can let it be a black mark on your presidency, but let him take the consequences for his actions.
Reforming-The Colonel believes that Sasha will continue to do what he already did if he is forgiven and his debts are paid for him. This is important because Sasha does not reform, which enhances the author's use of irony.
Lombroso-Scientist who believed that criminality was a trait that a person may or may not have. By using a reference to Lombroso, Chekhov enhances the theme of criminality.
Vestibule- A vestibule is a small entrance hall or room. This word enhances the reader's understanding of the setting. The use of this word also suggests that the family is wealthy.