The Four Levels of Who Was to Blame? (Anton Chekhov):
1. Literal Comprehension
The main character in the story ‘Who Was To Blame ?’ is the narrator’s uncle Pyotr Demyanitch who is getting ready to go to high school, where he teaches Latin. Then, he notices that his Latin book has been nibbled on the corner by a mouse. Then, he complains about the mice to his maid Praskovya who says that it’s not her fault. They should get a cat and they realize that they already have one. When they look at it, they see a young, kitten of two months old, sitting cured up beside the broom.
The uncle sees the kitten and thinks that he was born a mouth catcher, who is a worthy son of his blood thirty ancestors but the kitten only sits down lazily without caring about anything.
On his way back from high school, Pyotr buys a mousetrap. He puts a little food on it and puts it under the sofa. After sometimes he hears the sound ‘Klopp’. He goes there and sees that it has caught the mouse. Then, asks his maid to bring the kitten. He starts to teach the kitten by putting him just outside the trap. He gets surprised to see the kitten dash out of the door due to the fear of the little mouse.
This situation happens for many years, Pyotr catches a mouse, then brings the kitten to teach him, the mouse trembles with fear and lets the mouse run away.
At the fourth time, when the same thing happens. Pyotr throws the kitten out of the house.
A year gets passed by after that and one day he sees the kitten again, who has turned into a huge cat now but he sees the cat still get afraid of the mouse and run away. The narrator remembers himself running away as he sees his uncle like the cat did seeing a mouse.
Through the story ‘Who Was To Blame ?’, the writer has told us about the inborn quality of cats. Being the part of the same species as a tiger, like his ancestors the cat is also bloodthirsty animal, fate has destined cat to be the terror where he goes but the cat in the story is the complete opposite of this. Here, the writer may be trying to tell that even though animals have been grouped together according to similar characteristics, some might not follow the stereotype.
Similarly, the cat is more and more afraid of the mouse might be due to the forced training he got. He didn’t get to learn to hunt mice on its natural pace but was thrashed in front of one again and again. The forced things will take you nowhere, as the story, it might even destroy the inborn capacity.
Likewise, the narrator is also telling us that the things that we have learned through fear without any motivation or interest will take us nowhere. This type of learning will ultimately cause negative results.
3. Critical Thinking
‘Who Was To Blame ?’ is an interesting story to read if we want to know more about cats.
- But the major question that raised in my head is ‘How can a cat be afraid of a mouse?’ I’d have got it since the mouse was just a two-months-old, being afraid of something bigger than him is justifiable but being afraid of a mouse is just weird for a cat.
- How can a teacher not know that teaching someone forcefully it will get them nowhere?
- And even after a year, the cat was still afraid of a mouse?
- How did the cat survive on the streets? What did he feed?
- Moreover, is a cat the only way to get rid of a mouse? Since Pyotr caught the mouse several times he could have easily got rid of it.
This idea about forceful studying is relatable to me. When I was in grade 1, I didn’t like to study. I used to get beaten by my sister. Every day I did my homework crying. One time she even tied a rope around my leg and hanged me upside down. Every time when I tried to read, I only did that because I was scared of her because of reading this way. I used to forget everything during exam time.
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