Who was to Blame? -- Anton Chekhov Four Level |Bikram Adhikari

Who was to Blame? -- Anton Chekhov

Literal Comprehension: The narrator's uncle, Pyotr Demyanitch, was a Latin grammar teacher. He was surprised to find that his book was nibbled by mice. He asked the cook, Praskovya, how his book was nibbled so, and suggested that she should keep a cat. The cook retorted that she already had a cat, but it was too small to kill any mice. The teacher saw the kitten sleeping lazily. He said it needed to be trained, and went to school. When he returned home in the evening, he bought a mousetrap. He trapped a mouse, and asked his cook to bring the kitten near the mousetrap. He wanted the kitten to catch the mouse as he let the mouse go out of the mousetrap. However, the kitten was already nervous by that time. So, when he let the mouse go, the kitten ran under the table in place of running after the mouse. The teacher was very angry. He dragged the kitten from under the table and shook it in the air. The process was repeated a few times more, but every time the kitten ran away from the mouse. Pyotr Demyanitch was disgusted, and he kicked the kitten declaring that it was of no use at all. After a year, the kitten grew up to be a tomcat. However, the narrator saw that it would run away from a mouse even in its adulthood. The narrator remembers that he was also taught Latin by his uncle. Now in his adulthood, he also runs away whenever he happens to come across some aspects of Latin grammar.
Interpretation: The message of this story is self-evident. It suggests that all creatures, whether humans or others, have a natural capacity to learn certain things in their childhood. It is not necessary to train them. If we try to train them, it may be counter-productive. It will certainly be so if we use force during the training. A kitten, for example, naturally learns to catch mice. Similarly, human babies also naturally learn many things in due course of time. The Latin grammar teacher perhaps does not understand this simple truth. So, he tries to train a kitten to catch mice. The kitten is afraid of the process, and it runs away from a mouse even in its adulthood. The narrator also tells his own story. He was taught Latin grammar by his uncle, who must have used force to teach the narrator. The result is that the narrator has lost any interest in Latin.
Critical Thinking: This story presents the reality of children's world. It highlights that children, whether they are humans' or animals', have the capacity to learn certain things naturally, and it is not necessary to train them. It is a reality that a kitten naturally learns to catch mice. Similarly, human babies also learn many things instinctively. The story also highlights the fact that trying to train a child sometimes may be counter-productive. Nevertheless, the story also exaggerates the fact. How can the kitten run away from a mouse even in its adulthood? Can a cat have the memory of its childhood experiences? The story suggests that the cat runs away from a mouse because it was punished for not being able to catch a mouse in its childhood. Isn't it a false representation of reality?
Assimilation: This story reminded me of my own childhood days. The Latin grammar teacher, particularly, reminded me of one of my primary school teachers. He taught Sanskrit grammar. The teacher used to lose temper if I did not learn things promptly. He would even punish me for failing to understand his meaning immediately. I find myself in the narrator's position. The narrator runs away from Latin grammar even in his adulthood. I also run away from Sanskrit grammar like the narrator. I understand that I could learn many things without the teacher's help. But I could not learn properly because I was afraid of my Sanskrit teacher. The story has made me understand that I should not use force while trying to teach a child something.

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