The title story is a careful reminder of the soul-deadening life of a teacher in the Russian countryside -- for in Russia of Chekhov's day, education was less-valued than it is today, and teachers greatly underpaid and undervalued. Chekhov was of a different social background than more aristocratic Russian authors such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Turgenev -- this offered him an insight into character that differed from theirs. A physician as well, Chekhov's observational skills are clear in this, as with all of his collections of short fiction. These stories will remind the reader of other 19th Century masters of short fiction, such as Maupassant. But their nature, and poetic irony, is exclusively.