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A Chameleon

About the author

Anton Chekov was a Russian physician who wrote several short stories and dramas. He became one of the finest writers in Russia for his literary excellence and won the Pushkin Prize in 1888. 

About the Story

  • The story ‘A Chameleon’ was published in 1884.

  • The main theme of the story is the behavior of humans, hypocrisy, and human injustice.

  • It is a fictional story that is told from the third-person point of view.

  • The story revolves around Otchumyelov, Hryukin, and Yeldrin.



1. Hryukin- a goldsmith whom a small puppy bit

2. Otchumyelov- the police superintendent

3. A red-haired policeman-a person who followed Otchumyelov

4. a small puppy-bit Hryukin

5. Crowd

6. General Zhigalov

7. General’s brother Vladimir Ivanitch

8. Prohor- The General’s cook


Otchumyelov was a police superintendent and Yeldrin was a policeman. They passed by the market square. They heard the sound of crying of a dog which was jumping, and examining its surroundings. It went out of Pitchugin’s timber yard. A man chased it and captured it by hinds. The dog started yelping, and a crowd gathered in the timber yard. Otchumyelov moved forward in the crowd and recognized the man who was Hryukin, a goldsmith. The dog was a white borzoi puppy that had bitten Hryukin’s finger. So he showed his bleeding finger in the crowd and wanted to have compensation for his injury. After listening to Hryukin, Otchumyelov decided to teach a lesson to the owner of the dog and ordered Yeldrin to frame a report. He also said the dog had to be strangled.

Suddenly someone in the crowd said that the dog belonged to General Zhigalov. Then Otchumylov changed his opinion and asked Hryukin with a strong doubt how the dog had come to bite him and how had it reached his finger. He remarked that the dog was a little one, but Hryukin was a large one. He guessed that Hryukin must have scratched his finger with a nail to get compensation. Someone said that Hryukin had put a cigarette in the dog’s face, so the dog had bitten him when Hryukin refused to admit his fault. Then the policeman said that all the dogs of General Zhigalov were setters, and Otchumyelov again changed his standpoint. Otchumyelov agreed with the policeman and said that the General had valuable dogs. He promised Hryukin once again that he would take action against the owner of the dog.

In the meantime, the policeman thought deeply and said that he had seen the dog in the garden of the General. Instantly Otchumyelov changed his stand and ordered Yeldrin to take the dog to the General’s house. He also advised him to tell the General not to leave the dog in the street. He ordered Yeldrin to put down his hands, as his displaying of a finger would not work out. He also said that Hryukin was responsible for everything that happened to him.

Then Prohor, a cook came and disclosed that the dog did not belong to the General. Otchumyelov accepted the dog as a stray dog and declared that the dog had to be strangled. Then Prohor said that the dog belonged to Vladimir Ivanitch, the General’s brother. It was the time when Otchumyelov became extremely happy,  told Prohor to take the dog, and warned Hrukin for his mischief. Then the crowd laughed at Hryukin, and Otchumyelov moved across the market square.

Multiple Choice Questions

1. The culprit who caused the sensation in ‘A Chameleon’ was –

a)a white Borzoi puppy b)a horse c)a bird d)Yeldrin

2. Anton Chekov was a –

a)Russian Writer b)American Writer c)Indian Writer d)Italian Writer

3. Hryukin talked with Mitry Mitrich about-

a)firewood b)gold c)dog d)fire

4. Hryukin seized the dog by her-

a)hind legs b)neck c)ears d)none of these

5. The police superintendent carried a parcel-

a)under his arms b)on his head c)in a box d) in his hands

6. The timber yard belonged to –

a) Hryukin b)Yeldrin c)Otchumyelov d) Pitchugin

7. The dog who had bitten Hryukin, belonged to –

a)Vladimir Ivanitch b)Yeldrin c)Otchumyelov d)Zhigalov

8. Hryukin wore-

a)a starched cotton shirt b)a sweater c)a shirt d)a jacket

9. Otchumyelov is the name of –

a)the police superintendent b) the police constable c) the goldsmith d) the painter

10. Anton Chekov received the Pushkin Prize in –

a)1889 b)1981 c)1888 d)1980

Short Answer Type Questions

1. Name the police superintendent.

Ans: The name of the police superintendent was Otchumylov.

2. What happened to Hryukin?

Ans: When Hryukin was talking about firewood to Mitry Mitrich, a small puppy bit his finger.

3. Who was Yeldrin? What did he carry with him?

Ans: Yeldrin was a red-haired policeman who was walking after his superintendent, Otchumyelov.

He carried a sieve full of gooseberries with him.

4. What did the police superintendent wear and carry?

Ans: The police superintendent wore a new overcoat and carried a parcel.

5. Where was Otchumyelov walking?

Ans: Otchumyelov was walking across the market square.

6. Who was the General’s cook?

Ans: Prohor was General’s cook.

7. Who was Hryukin? What was his profession?

Ans: Hryukin was a person whom a small puppy bit.

He was a goldsmith.

8. Who was Zhigalov?

Ans: Zhigalov was the name of the General.

9. How were the General’s dogs?

Ans: The General’s dogs were mostly setters.

10. When did Otchumyelov speak for Hryukin once again?

Ans: When Yeldrin told Otchumyelov that the dog did not belong to General Zhigalov, Otchumyelov started to speak for Hryukin once again.

11. What happens to Hryukin at the end of the story?

Ans: At the end of the story, the dog walks away with Prohor from the timber yard. The crowd smiles at Hryukin. Otchumyelov warns Hryukin, “I’ll make you smart yet”, and covers himself in his greatcoat and goes on his way across the market square.

12. Who reveals the truth about the dog?

Ans: Prohor reveals the truth about the dog.

13. When did Anton Chekov win the Pushkin Prize?

Ans: Anton Chekov won the Pushkin Prize in 1888.

14. “Lads, don’t let him go!”-Whom did the speaker not want to let go?

Ans: The speaker did not want a white Borzoi puppy to let go.

15. Who was the culprit according to Hryukin? How did the culprit look?

Ans: A white Borzoi puppy was the culprit. The puppy or the culprit had a sharp muzzle and a yellow spot on her back. He was sitting with her forepaws outstretched in the middle of the crowd. He was trembling all over. He had an expression of trouble and fear in her tearful eyes.

16. Who was yelping?

Ans: A white Borzoi puppy that bit Hrykin was yelping.

17. Who was the General’s brother?

Ans: Vladimir Ivanitch was the General’s brother.

18. What did Hryukin show to the crowd?

Ans: Hryukin showed his bleeding finger to the crowd.

19. What did Otchumyelov notice after striding toward the crowd?

Ans: After striding towards the crowd, Otchumyelov noticed a man in the unbuttoned waistcoat standing close by the gate of the timber yard, and holding his right hand he displayed his bleeding finger to the crowd.

20. How did Hryukin seize the dog?

Ans: Hryukin ran after the dog, throwing his body, and seized the dog by her hind legs.

21. What was Hryukin doing when the puppy bit Hryukin’s finger?

Ans: Hryukin was talking with Mitry Mitrich about firewood when the puppy bit Hryukin’s finger.

22. Who was chasing the dog?

Ans: Hryukin was chasing the dog.

23. Whom did Otchumyelov see after striding toward the crowd?

Ans: After striding towards the crowd Otchumyelov saw Hryukin in the unbuttoned waistcoat standing close by the gate of the timber yard.

Long Answer Type Questions

1. What did Otchumyelov inquire pushing his way through the crowd? What did Hryukin reply to him? How did Otchumyelov react to Hryukin’s reply?

Ans: Otchumyelov wanted to know why Hryukin was there, why was he waving his finger, and who shouted.

Hryukin replied to the police superintendent that he was walking along the market square without interfering with anyone. After a while, he was talking to  Mitry Mitritch about firewood when a white borzoi puppy bit him without any rhyme or reason. Coughing and raising his eyebrows Otchumyelov asked whose dog was it, and he warned that he wouldn’t let the matter pass. He said that the people of the gentleman class would be looked after if they didn’t obey the regulations. He also said that after taking a fine from the dog owner he would teach him what it meant to keep dogs and such stray cattle. He ordered Yeldrin to find out the owner of the dog and frame a report against the owner of the dog. He decided the dog must be strangled without delay.

2. Why did the police superintendent speak against Hryukin? How did he criticize Hryukin?

Ans: At the time someone in the crowd informed Otchumyelov that General Zhigalov was the owner of the dog, the police superintendent spoke against Hryukin.

He told Hryukin that he could not understand how the dog came to bite him. He also said the dog was little in size, and Hryukin was a great hulking fellow, so the dog could not reach Hryukin’s finger. According to him, Hryukin must have scratched his finger with a nail, and then he got the idea of taking compensation for it. He called Hryukin a devil and said that he knew his sort.

3. Justify the title of the story, “A Chameleon”.

Ans: The title of the story, “A Chameleon” revolves around Otchumyelov who is the police superintendent, and changes his opinion along with attitude many times throughout the entire story like a chameleon changes its color according to its surroundings. At the beginning of the story, Otchumyelov stands by Hryukin and decides to teach a lesson to the sophisticated gentleman by strangling the puppy. Again when someone from the crowd said that the puppy belonged to General Zhigalov, Otchumyelov changed his decision instantly and said that Hryukin had scratched his finger with his nail. He changed his decision and attitude when there was a change in the situation. In the story, Otchumyelov changes his behavior and decisions many times according to the needs of the situation as a chameleon does. So the title ‘A Chameleon’ hints at the entire content and theme of the story and it is appropriate.

4. Why was Hryukin waving his finger at the crowd? What did the finger look like?

Ans: Hryukin was waving his finger at the crowd because a small puppy bit his finger, and it was bleeding so much. According to Hryukin,  he got injured on the finger in his right hand, and he could not work for some time because of the injury the small puppy made. So he wanted the crowd to know how a small puppy bit his finger without reason, and how he deserved compensation for his bleeding finger.

Hryukin’s bleeding finger on his right hand looks like a flag of victory.

5. Describe the character of Otchumyelov in  ‘A Chameleon’.

Ans: In the story ‘A Chameleon’, Otchumyelov is a self-centered person who acts according to the situation. He pretends to be an honest police Superintendent and philanthropic human being, but in reality, his behavior is fake. When Hryukin describes how a white borzoi puppy bit him without reason, he stands with Hryukin. Again he changes his decision and blames Hryukin for his injury when someone from the crowd informs him that the puppy belongs to General Zhigalov as he knows to act according to the situation cleverly as a chameleon changes its color to survive according to its surroundings. He is a double-faced person who is full of ambiguity. Otchumyelov behaves differently on the same issue when the situation changes. He gives more importance to the social status of a person than the reality of fact and justice. He is a corrupt and hypocritical person who orders Yeldrin to strangle the puppy, but again he confirms that Hryukin scratched his finger with a nail when he knows the puppy belongs to General Zhigalov. At the end of the story, he appreciates the dog and criticizes Hryukin’s tricks of earning money when he knows the owner of the dog is Vladimir Ivanitch, the General’s brother. His decision depends on the social rank of a person without considering what is wrong or right. He pretends to be a humanitarian but in reality, there is a big hollow in his ethics.  

6. What is the theme of the story, “A Chameleon”?

Ans: In the story, ‘A Chameleon’, Anton Chekov portrays the theme of human injustice and hypocrisy by presenting a humorous incident. In this story, Hryukin explained to Otchumyelov how a white borzoi puppy bit him and why he must get damaged. After knowing about the incident Otchumyelov decided to strangle the puppy, but he blamed Hryukin when someone revealed the puppy belonged to General Zhigalov. As a Superintendent Otchumyelov could not make decisions based on the right and wrong of the incident, but he took action according to the need of the situation. This story also depicts how justice depended on the social rank of a person more than the reality of the fact. Otchumyelov showed himself as an honest and dutiful person among the crowd, but his hypocrisy is clearly revealed when he changed his opinion about the same incident depending on the social rank of the dog owner without considering wrong or right.



A. Answer each of the following questions :

i)Whom did Hryukin talk to when the dog bit him?

ii)Why was Hryukin waving his finger?

iii)Who was trembling and why?

iv)Why did the crowd gather around the timber yard?

v) To Whom did Otchumyelov want to teach a lesson?

vi)Why did Otchumyelov blame Hryukin for having scratched his finger with a nail?

vii)Who was Vladimir Ivanitch?

viii)Whom did the crowd laugh at?

ix)What did Prohor reply to Otchumyelov?

x)Who was Mitry Mitrich?

xi)Who was Otchumyelov?

xii)What does the white pup in ‘A Chameleon’ symbolize?

xiii)Describe the appearance of Otchumyelov.

xiv)Name three of Anton Chekov’s acclaimed plays.

xv)Why did Hryukin want to have damages?

xvi)”He is a nonsensical fellow, your honor!”-Why was the person spoken of called ‘nonsensical’?

xvii)Whon did he call  Excellency in ‘A Chameleon’?

Textual Grammar

B. Do as directed:

i)A red-haired policeman strides after him with a sieve full of confiscated gooseberries in his hands. (Split into two sentences)

ii) Prohor calls the dog and walks away from the timber yard with her. The crowd laughs at Hryukin. (Join into a complex sentence)

iii)Hryukin said, “I was talking about firewood to Mitry Mitritch when this low brute for no rhyme or reason bit my finger.”(Change the narration)

iv) Otchumyelov said to Hryukin, “Surely it couldn’t reach your finger. It’s a little dog and you are a great hulking fellow!” (Change the narration)

v)The open doors of the shops and taverns look out upon God’s world disconsolately, like hungry mouths. There is not even a beggar near them. (Join into a complex sentence)

vi)I shan’t be able to use this finger for a week. (Correct the error)

vii)Otchumylov threatens him and wrapping himself in his great coat, goes on his way across the square. (Split into two sentences)


Superintendent-a police officer just above the rank of chief inspector, market square- an open area in the shape of the square in a city where the market is held, sieve-a container with small holes, confiscated- officially taken away