How to define the timeless, seductive allure of Chekhov? Part of it lies in his elusiveness, subtlety, adroit dialogue, precise descriptions and confident use of understatement. Unlike Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, there is no sermonising, no extremes. He never tells us what to think. There are no heroes. There is little action. Chekhov instead makes telling use, as Eudora Welty once noted, of the way people speak without listening to each other. No one grasps the relevance of the untidy present better than Chekhov.
Mood and atmosphere are vital in [Chekhov’s] explorations of emotional dilemma which, at times, border on the abstract. For him, the purpose of art is the depiction of unconditional truth and the pursuit of it; he invariably exposes hypocrisy and deception, most emphatically self-deception. Above all, Chekhov, described by Tolstoy as impressionist, understands compromise, downplays plot and avoids conventional denouement. As a playwright he knew both the risks and the significance of silence on stage, of the pause that articulates truth.