View Full Version : Rothschild's Fiddle

Dark Muse
03-24-2008, 07:35 PM
I just finnished reading Rothschild's Fiddle and I just have to say that I thought the ending of the story was truly exquisite. This is the very first thing I have read by Chekhov and I must say I was really quite impressed and moved. I shall definately continue to prusue this author further.

03-26-2008, 08:19 PM
You slipped this thread by me. I didn't notice there was a "Rothschild's Fiddle" discussion up. This was actually the first story we read for the Chekhov thread. I think we gave it positive reviews, too. The ending is quite moving, and the image of river and the possibility it represents really stays with you. Did you like the fiddle part of the story? I thought it might have been a little over the top.

Dark Muse
03-26-2008, 10:49 PM
The Fiddle part was interesting, I kind of liked the fact that he passed the fiddle one to the Jew, whose name I cannot remeber off the top of his head, but the fact that he then gave up ever playing the flute again was perhaps a tad much.

I did really like the part about the rivier.

03-26-2008, 10:59 PM
the Jew, whose name I cannot remember off the top of his head

The name eludes me too.

If I remember the discussion, I think the question that we spent the most time over had to do with Yakov's past. Do you think Yahov was ever contented before the story, or was he always the unhappy person we see in the few pages we read here? In our discussion I set up the question like this:

In order to decide whether Yakov was happy earlier in life, we need to know what's causing Yakov's depression at the end. Is it the fact that he always lived his life selfishly and lost contact with his family, or is it that he simply lost his daughter? It seems like Yakov attitude towards his wife was the same earlier in his life as it was at the end of the story. He says that he "never" showed affection for her. This would make it seem like Yakov didn't ever live blissfully. He also says his life is "wasted" not lost or taken from him. That makes it sound like he was responsible for the depressing circumstances he finds himself in. This is all evidence that Yakov always placed his money and career over his relationships with others. He even concludes, "If it were not for hatred and malice people would get immense benefit from one another". This sounds like self-accusation, and Yakov could be blaming his misplaced attention. In this case, Yakov was never happy. He was always a misguided idiot who wasted his life.

Yet, at the same time, we can make an argument that Yakov did have a enjoyable past--only he's repressing it. We never really know whether Yakov accepts the fact that he had a daughter who died. We know he accepts his grief when he plays the violin at the end, but we're still not sure if he knows why he's grieving. All of Yakov's unpleasantness--that malice that he believes ruins relationships--could be a symptom and not a cause. He could be depressed because he has lost his daughter, and now he's inflicting the pain he feels internally onto others. His obsession with lost money and work could be the misplaced feeling he has about his lost daughter. Think about the violin playing; it evokes such a powerful emotion from Yakov because it's played plaintively. It makes more sense that Yakov would respond to the music because of a sense of grief and not a misspent life. When Yakov goes to the river and realizes that life could have been different, better. He imagines positive images like the geese coming together or the river filled with boats. If this is what Yakov hasn't been seeing in his life, then the music which would remind him wouldn't be plaintive. It would have to be symbolic of the life he had chosen to turn his back on. Really, it makes more sense that the music would reach Yakov because it's reminding him of a painful memory which he's trying to repress. That's the best argument I can make for this reading. There are others but it might become tedious if I listed them all.

I was hoping I might make this problem a little more solvable by the end of this post, but that's not going too well. I'll give one last possibility. It could be both A and B.

Dark Muse
03-26-2008, 11:05 PM
Yes I skimmed through some of those posts, one of the reason I chose to read this story, is becasue I saw you had already dicussed it. The basic impression I got, is that it seems that he was by nature just an unhappy person.

But it is an intresting discussion, and it is true that his repressed feelings for his daughter's death could have affected his attitude towrd life. But it is hard for me to imagine, that he was happy once based on my reading of the story.