Was Chekhov’s Gun an AK-47?

AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every <bleep>er in the room, accept no substitutes.’ – Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Brown

A topic linked to that of MacGuffins was Chekhov’s Gun.  The idea was brought to the fore by one Anton Chekhov, whose works used the visual of a weapon in an early scene to foreshadow its usage.

The topic rang a bell from my English Literature days in high school, reminding me of a play named Hedda Gabler by the famed Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen.  Sure enough, the ‘See Also’ section on the play’s Wikipedia page had a link to Chekhov’s Gun.

In the play, the titular lady has found herself in a marriage of convenience with a middling academic.  Instead of embracing the role of a housewife, she desires a measure of power for herself.  Her chance comes with the reappearance of a challenger in her husband’s academic field.  The man had been side-tracked by a crippling addiction, but he has overcome it and shown the promise many saw earlier.

There are variations of Chekhov’s Gun within the story.  Hedda craves a luxurious life with regular entertaining, which could now be threatened by her husband’s rival.  A party later in the story becomes a plot device, as there will be plenty of the challenger’s vice available.  Later events involve the leading lady giving the man a gun.

Needless to say, Chekhov’s rule comes into play.

The concept’s Wikipedia article mentions that the ‘(f)ailure to observe the rule of “Chekhov’s gun” may be cited by critics when discussing plot holes’.  What is the point of providing a visual or a hint that a weapon will be available if it is not to be used?  If it isn’t used, there must be something fishy going on…

But that’s next week’s topic.

Do you have a favourite instance of this concept?  Be sure to let me know =)

– Mo –

NaNoWriMo Countdown:  172 days to go!


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