“An Upheaval” Summary by Anton Chekhov

“An Upheaval” is a short story by Anton Chekhov about a young governess who’s treated disrespectfully by the lady of the house. Something has been stolen and all the servants are being thoroughly searched, and the governess isn’t being treated as well as she expected. Here’s a summary of “An Upheaval”.

“An Upheaval” Summary

Mashenka, the Kushkins young governess, returns to their home after a walk. There’s a commotion going on. Loud voices are heard upstairs, and the servants are red and crying. In the corridor, she sees the master of the house, Nikolay Sergeitch, coming out of her room. He’s red and agitated, and acknowledges a terrible breach of decorum is being carried out.

Mashenka enters her room and sees it’s being searched by the lady of the house, Fedosya Vassilyevna, a coarse woman. Surprised to see the girl, Fedosya Vassilyevna makes a weak excuse and leaves. Mashenka’s room is in disorder; everything has been rifled and opened. She’s confused and wonders what’s going on. She feels cold.

A maid-servant enters. Fedosya Vassilyevna has lost a valuable brooch, presumed stolen. The servants have been searched and stripped. Mashenka is insulted by the indignity and doesn’t see why she should be a suspect. The maid tells her she’s living with strangers and she’s like a servant.

Mashenka lies on her bed and cries. She’s outraged to be suspected of theft. Her mind races with further indignities she could be subjected to. Her parents are too far away and too poor to help her. She could go to a lawyer and take an oath.

Mashenka remembers the sweets she has hidden in her room an is embarrassed that Fedosya Vassilyevna knows her little secret. She panics and doesn’t feel well.

“An Upheaval” Summary, Cont’d

The household is called to dinner. Fedosya Vassilyevna and Nikolay Sergeitch are at opposite ends of the table. Some guests and children sit on the sides. There’s only the sound of eating.

Fedosya Vassilyevna asks about the third course, which is fish. Nikolay Sergeitch ordered it. Fedosya Vassilyevna likes being in charge of the food and she tears up. Her doctor tries to calm her.

She explains it’s not the value of the brooch that bothers her, it’s the ingratitude it shows for someone to steal from her.

Mashenka feels like everyone is looking at her. She starts to cry and quickly excuses herself from the table. Nikolay Sergeitch protests over the search of Mashenka’s room. Fedosya Vassilyevna makes no apologies and tells him to mind his own business. He gives up.

In her room, Mashenka feels like slapping Fedosya Vassilyevna. She imagines their roles reversed—herself coming into a fortune and Fedosya Vassilyevna coming to ruin. Although it’s terrible to lose her job, she knows she must leave at once. She jumps up and starts packing.

Nikolay Sergeitch asks to come in. On finding out she’s leaving, he tries to persuade her to stay. He apologizes for himself and his wife. He knows her pride is hurt.

She won’t spare his pride either, so he makes a confession he won’t reveal on his deathbed—he took the brooch. He needed money and his wife wouldn’t give him any, even though everything they own came from him. This only strengthens Mashenka’s resolve to leave.

Nikolay Sergeitch envies her ability to leave when there’s no where he can go to get away from his wife’s influence. He entreats her one last time to stay—she’s the only human face in the house and they could talk in the evenings. Mashenka shakes her head.

A half an hour later, she departs.

I hope this summary of “An Upheaval” by Anton Chekhov was helpful.