Analysis of The Kiss by Anton Chekhov
The story is also outstanding for its accommodation of dual characteristics of the concrete and the abstract. In other words, while the romantic preoccupation of Ryabovitch has a certain immediacy and specificity, by the end of the story, it becomes clear that the author is dealing with human universals. The character of Ryabovitch pitted against the unexpected circumstances he finds himself in acts as a representation for broader human life. When the officers of a reserve artillery brigade pass through the countryside as part of their military excursion, they are invited for tea by the local landlord and retired General von Rabbek. The invitation was largely a matter of courtesy and formality, as the General could have very little genuine interest in entertaining a group of officers unknown and unconnected to him. The event begins on an awkward note but is soon smoothened by banter, good food, and music. When music is played, the young officers choose attractive young women from the gathering to dance in duet. What should be a pleasurable evening out for most is quite the opposite for one young officer called Ryabovitch, who is the central character of the story. Rabinovitch is a shy, lean and modest staff-captain, who regards himself as unattractive. He thinks of himself as “short, stooping… with spectacles and lynx-like side whiskers". He could be true about this assessment of himself, or it could have born of his low self-esteem. Either way, he finds social occasions discomforting, especially if it involves attractive young women. He tries to minimize his discomfort by joining a group of officers in the billiards room but soon gets bored. On his way back to the central hall, he gets lost in the labyrinthine design of the house and ends up visiting a darkly lit room. As he ponders where to go next, a young woman visits him in the room and from behind him, plants a kiss upon his cheek. Momentarily, she realizes that she’s kissed the wrong man – something indicated by her surprised shriek and immediately rushing out of the room.