Chekhov's gun

A gun hanging on the wall

Chekhov's gun (Chekhov's rifle; Russian: Чеховское ружьё) is a narrative principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed. For example, if a writer features a gun in a story, there must be a reason for it, such as it being fired some time later in the plot. All elements must eventually come into play at some point in the story. Some authors, such as Hemingway, do not agree with this principle.

The principle is recorded in letters by Anton Chekhov several times, with some variation; it was advice for young playwrights.[1][2][3][4]

In recent years, the term has also taken on the meaning of a plot element that is introduced early in a story, whose significance to the plot does not become clear until later.[5][6] This meaning is separate from Chekhov's original intention with the principle, which relates to narrative conservation and necessity, rather than plot significance.

  1. ^ Bitsilli, Petr Mikhailovich (1983). Chekhov's Art: A stylistic analysis. Ardis. p. x.
  2. ^ Daniel S. Burt (2008). The literature 100: A ranking of the most influential novelists, playwrights, and poets of all time. Infobase Publishing.
  3. ^ Bill, Valentine T. (1987). Chekhov: The silent voice of freedom. Philosophical Library.
  4. ^ Delaney, Brian M. (1990). "Chekhov's gun and Nietzsche's hammer: The biotechnological revolution and the sociology of knowledge". Berkeley Journal of Sociology. 35: 167–174. ISSN 0067-5830. JSTOR 41035505.
  5. ^ Foley, John Miles (16 September 2005). A Companion to Ancient Epic. Wiley. ISBN 978-1-4051-0524-8.
  6. ^ Updike, John (30 December 2008). Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-55580-9.