Ward No. 6 Book Summary – Anton Chekhov

Ward No. 6 Book Summary - Anton Chekhov
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“Ward No. 6” (or other name Sixth Ward) is a short story by Anton Chekhov, written in 1892. In this work, Chekhov portrays two different character types, Ivan Dmitrievich, an educated psychiatric patient, and Dr. Andrey Yefimych. The story addresses criticisms towards individuals who prefer to remain indifferent to the country’s problems, touching upon themes such as death and immortality, the existence or non-existence of God, corrupt officials, the habit of reading books, and empathy.

Vladimir Lenin also read the short story Ward No. 6 and is reported to have been influenced, expressing that he felt as if he were confined to this ward.

Summary of Ward No. 6 Book

Ivan Dmitrievich is an educated and knowledgeable man. However, despite this, he is undergoing treatment in a mental hospital in a small town. The atmosphere in the mental hospital is so oppressive that it could drive even an intelligent patient insane.

“An ordinary person expects good or evil from outside, from a horse-drawn carriage or a study. A thinking person finds it within himself.”

Doctor Andrey Yefimych Ragin does not have a positive opinion about this hospital. However, he does nothing to improve the hospital. He observes that Ivan Dmitrievich is an informed and intelligent patient. Ivan frequently engages in philosophical dialogues with the doctor, holds discussions about society, and they even have occasional arguments. Ivan has a harsh demeanor, and people don’t communicate with him unless necessary. Despite this, Doctor Andrey takes great pleasure in conversing with him.

“Against any obstacle that comes your way, you can find solace within yourself. The striving for a free and profound thought, the complete disregard for nonsensical worldly concerns—these two things are the two gifts that a person cannot surpass. Even if you live behind three iron bars, you can still possess them. Diogenes lived in a barrel, but he was happier than all the kings in the world.”

As time passes, the doctor visits the hospital only to chat with Ivan. This situation is frowned upon by those around him. The hospital staff, assuming that the doctor must also be a patient, lock him up in the Ward No. 6

The situation that is frowned upon by his surroundings is, in fact, their dismissal of thinking, conversing, and exchanging ideas as useless activities. Unfortunately, people get used to what the majority does. It is impossible even to consider the opposite. Being a different color in society, adopting a different thought or ideology, has not been well-received. They consider their own way as the only correct one and do not want to look at life through different perspectives.

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