Anton Chekhov's The Kiss: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

What kind of impact can one kiss have? In Anton Chekhov's ''The Kiss,'' you'll learn exactly that. This lesson will cover a summary of the short story and an analysis of the message behind it.

Daydreaming

Have you ever engaged in a daydream? Daydreams are fantasies we have while going about our daily tasks. Maybe you spend time at work daydreaming about being at the beach, or perhaps you drive down the street daydreaming about what you'd do if you won the lottery.

Daydreams are breaks from reality. They give us something fun to think about, while detaching us slightly from our current surroundings.

One of the characters in our story, Anton Chekhov's ''The Kiss,'' is quite the daydreamer. A seemingly insignificant kiss has a shy soldier thinking about love and a relationship before it all comes crashing down to Earth. Let's take a closer look at the tale.

Summary of ''The Kiss''

The story opens with a group of soldiers sitting around in a Russian village when a surprise invitation to tea arrives. The tea invitation comes at the request of an unknown local, Lieutenant-General Von Rabbek, and though the soldiers are somewhat suspicious, they clean up and head to Von Rabbek's house.

Taking Tea

At Von Rabbek's home, they are greeted by the general himself, who invites each soldier in but apologies in advance for not being able to let them stay overnight. The general tells the soldiers that some family and friends have dropped by quite unexpectedly.

They head into the dining room to partake in tea. There, they are greeted by ''men and ladies, young and old,'' and introduce themselves. They sit for tea and everyone has conversation. Everyone except Ryabovitch, that is. The author tells us that his very appearance says, ''I am the shyest, most modest, and most undistinguished officer in the whole brigade!'' Ryabovitch is something of a wallflower or loner.

Into the Drawing Room

After tea, the party moves into the drawing room, where music is played and the ''smell of roses, of poplars, and lilac came not from the garden, but from the ladies' faces and dresses.'' Since Ryabovitch merely watches from the corner, when Von Rabbek extends an offer to several soldiers to engage in a game of billiards, Ryabovitch follows them out of the room.

After Billiards

Feeling as though he's mostly in the way, Ryabovitch decides to return to the drawing room. Along the way, he gets lost and ends up in a little, dark room. Unsure what to do next, Ryabovitch hesitates. All of a sudden, a woman appears out of nowhere, exclaims, ''At last!'', kisses him, shrieks and flees. He is struck by a chilly sensation at the site of the kiss and how his neck appears to have been anointed with oil.

After the Kiss

Ryabovitch returns to the drawing room, but it's clear he's a changed person. He cannot stop thinking about the kiss and the scent of the woman. He continues on with the evening, but he keeps thinking about the kiss through dinner, upon leaving the house and even after returning to the soldiers' housing. He also wonders who this mystery woman is.

The next few days, the soldiers are participating in maneuvers, and yet, Ryabovitch's mind is still on the kiss from that evening. He goes through all the motions, daydreaming about the woman who surprised him in the dark. Later, he tells some of his fellow soldier about the experience, but they simply laugh at him and poke fun: ''She must be some sort of hysterical neurotic,'' one soldier exclaimed about her.

Moving On

As conversations in the camp turn to women, as they invariably do, Ryabovitch listens with interest. He thinks about the kiss and the woman, and imagines his life years from now, married and in his own home.

Sometime later, the soldiers return to the area where they had once dined at the Von Rabbek house. The other soldiers are convinced they will be invited to come back around, which makes Ryabovitch uneasy. He gets up in the middle of the night and walks alone toward the house where the kiss occurred, but something has changed. The scents and sounds of that magical night he previously experienced are long gone. Ryabovitch deals harshly with himself over the incident, calling it stupid and unintelligent. He is convinced that he will never again see the woman who graced him with the accidental kiss.

When he gets back to camp, he learns of Von Rabbek's invitation. He pushes down the momentary joy he feels and decides not to go back to the General's house after all.

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