Yakov Ivanov (nicknamed "Bronze") is a seventy-year-old coffin maker in a small village, where there are not enough deaths for his business to flourish. To make ends meet, he plays the violin for a Jewish klezmer orchestra when called upon by its director Moisey Shahkes. Yakov dislikes Jews, especially the flutist in the orchestra named Rothschild.
Yakov's wife Marfa becomes ill. Her illness makes him regret his flippant conduct, his coldness and indifference towards her. On the eve of her death, she reminds him of their shared past, but Yakov does not remember. He starts to build her coffin before she dies. Yakov eventually succumbs to illness as well. After grieving for his wife, and then facing his own mortality; Yakov's attitude changes. He eventually gives his violin to Rothschild before dying.
Livak, Leonid. The Jewish Persona in the European Imagination: A Case of Russian Literature. Stanford University Press, 2010.
Rosenshield, Gary. "Dostoevskii's "The Funeral of the Universal Man" and "An Isolated Case" and Chekhov's "Rothschild's Fiddle": The Jewish Question." Russian Review. Vol. 56, No. 4 (Oct., 1997) (pp. 487–504)
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