Sasha is the main character and protagonist of ‘‘A Problem.’’ The story is largely told as if he is eavesdropping on the meeting being held on his behalf. Much of the narrative is also concerned with his thoughts on the matter. But Sasha is not the story’s hero (that distinction is reserved for Ivan). As a man who is unashamedly drowning in debt and unrepentantly forging promissory notes, he is no hero. He is, in fact, an antihero, a literary figure whose values and or actions are antithetical to heroism. It would be possible for Sasha to be considered a hero were he to change his ways or undergo an epiphany that led to his repentance. Yet, this does not occur. In fact, the exact opposite takes place, as Sasha degenerates further into his bad habits. Over the course of the story, Sasha moves from believing himself to be a law-abiding person to understanding himself to be a criminal. Where a hero’s burgeoning understanding of this fact would lead him to take actions to correct this, Sasha only continues. In fact, something in his tone when he embraces his criminality indicates a celebratory note.
Third-Person Limited Point of View
‘‘A Problem’’ is told from a third-person limited point of view. This point of view is characterized by an unidentified (often objective) narrator who is privy only to the inner thoughts and emotions of one character. The remaining characters in the story can only be referred to on an external level, based on what they are saying or doing. The reader is thus able to scrutinize the thoughts and feelings of Sasha alone. This is appropriate given that he is the protagonist and also the only character who changes over the course of the story. For instance, a great deal of the narrative is devoted to Sasha’s thoughts regarding the nature of his infraction and his criminality. Furthermore, given that the uncles can only be understood through their actions, their significance in the story becomes somewhat eclipsed. This is also underscored by the fact that two of Sasha’s three uncles are not named; instead, they are referred to only by their professional posts.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 29, Anton Chekov, Published by Gale Group, 2001.