Anton Pavlovich Chekov was a leading Russian playwright and master of modern stories, who captured the literary world’s imagination in the late 19th and early 20th century. “In the Court” is one of his finest works published in 1886. The story is a satire on the Russian judiciary.
Anton Chekov, as is true to his style, does not give a realistic portrayal of the court proceedings. His aim throughout the story is to criticize the incompetence of the Russian judiciary. A system that fails in all aspects of serving justice. His major tool in doing so is satire.
“In the court” is a very vivid description of the trial of a peasant named Nakolay Harlamov, charged with the murder of his wife. The author Anton Chekhov, at the outset, gives a picture of the circuit court at the district town where the Justices of the peace, The Rural Board, The Liquor board, the Military Board and many others sat by turns. The building is a very old one and it bears a dismal(depressing) appearance without any kind of comfort.
The sitting of the circuit court began between nine and ten. The cases came one after another and ended quickly like a church service without a chair. At precisely two o’clock the presiding officer announced that the case of Nikloy Harlamov next be heard.
Harlamov, the prisoner, tall, thick-set peasant of about fifty-five years old completely bald was brought in by the presiding officer, the assistant prosecutor, the counsel for the defence and all the officials of the court wore a monotonous look in their routine work. No one seemed to have any interest in his particular case.
At this stage, the author reveals the mental make-up of the prisoner who for the first time got into the clutches of law. He looked for the first time and got into the clutches of law. He looked with dull-witted respectfulness at the judges uniforms and blinked calmly. The charge of murder hung over him and yet here he met with neither threatening faces nor indignant looks. He did not understand that the men in the court were accustomed(usual) to the dramas and tragedies of life.
In the meantime after the customary questions to the prisoner the charge against the prisoner was read. The charge was that he murdered his wife on the evening of ninth june. The presiding officer asked him whether he pleaded guilty. When the prisoner denied the charge, trial began.
The court proceeded with the examination of witnesses. Two peasant women, five men and the village policeman, who had made the inquiry, were examined. All of them testified that Harmalav lived well with his wife. On a particular day the body of the woman was found in the porch with her skull broken, an axe also lay beside her in a pool of blood. Harmalov had disappeared and came to the police station after two days.
When asked by the President, Harlamov said that he was afraid that he might be judged guilty. The district doctor was also examined, who made a postmortem of the women, when the defence counsel tried to get an answer to his question from the doctor, regarding the mental condition of the criminal, he could not get it. Then the material evidence like the cloth, axe etc., were examined. Harlamov denied that he had an axe and also gave different reasons for the blood stain in his coat.
Harlamov was irritated that he was not properly heard. The trial came to a close and the prisoner was escorted back and it was a painful moment. The author ends the description without giving the judgment being pronounced.
Anton Chekov presents this story in the most satirical way to an audience that indulges readers to think and empathize with the accused and realize the importance of an efficient and accountable judiciary system. This write-up is an attempt to bring out the boredom and lack of interest, peculiar(strange) to criminal trials. The attitude of a poor villager charged with a grave offence is well described.
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