Trigorin's Monologue from "The Seagull"

Anton Chekhov, Russia's literary genius, maintained two distinct careers: a doctor and a successful author. During the late 1800s, his plays and stories garnered accolades. Yet, he still practiced medicine. Even when he purchased his country estate in 1892, he still made house calls to his ailing neighbors, both peasant and upper-class. This kept him very much in touch with the general public.

In The Seagull, Chekhov's bleak yet fascinating analysis of artistic expression and self-worth, one of the characters, a writer named Trigorin, has attained financial success and fame.

A naive, young woman wants to know what his life is like, believing it must be wonderful to be a renowned author.

Trigorin explains that fame is not very interesting to him. Also, the life of a writer, although compelling and fully consuming, is not as satisfying as one would think.

Is Chekhov writing about his own views? One should remember that although some of these ideas may be in line with Chekhov's approach to writing, Trigorin is ultimately a very untrustworthy character. Most readers believe that as Trigorin speaks the following lines, he is hoping to impress the young woman enough to seduce her.

TRIGORIN:

Hm! . . . You talk of fame and happiness, of some brilliant interesting life; but for me all these pretty words, if I may say so, are just like marmalade, which I never eat. You are very young and very kind, but I don't know what is so delightful about my life. You have heard of obsessions, when a man is haunted day and night, say, by the idea of the moon or something?

Well, I've got my moon. Day and night I am obsessed by the same persistent thought; I must write, I must write, I must write. . . . No sooner have I finished one story than I am somehow compelled to write another, then a third, after a third a fourth. I write without stopping, except to change horses like a postchaise.

I have no choice. What is there brilliant or delightful in that, I should like to know? It's a dog's life! Here I am talking to you, excited and delighted, yet never for one moment do I forget that there is an unfinished story waiting for me indoors. I see a cloud shaped like a grand piano. I think: I must mention somewhere in a story that a cloud went by, shaped like a grand piano. I smell heliotrope. I say to myself: Sickly smell, mourning shade, must be mentioned in describing a summer evening. I lie in wait for each phrase, for each word that falls from my lips or yours and hasten to lock all these words and phrases away in my literary storeroom: they may come in handy some day. When I finish a piece of work, I fly to the theatre or go fishing, in the hope of resting, of forgetting myself, but no, a new subject is already turning, like a heavy iron ball, in my brain, some invisible force drags me to my table and I must make haste to write and write. And so on for ever and ever. I have no rest from myself; I feel that I am devouring my own life, that for the honey which I give to unknown mouths out in the void, I rob my choicest flowers of their pollen, pluck the flowers themselves and trample on their roots.

Surely I must be mad? Surely my friends and acquaintances do not treat me as they would treat a sane man? "What are you writing at now? What are we going to have next?" So the same thing goes on over and over again, until I feel as if my friends' interest, their praise and admiration, were all a deception; they are deceiving me as one deceives a sick man, and sometimes I'm afraid that at any moment they may steal on me from behind and seize me and carry me off, like PĆ³prishtchin, to a madhouse.