Too Clever by Half tells of Gloumov, who, in a quest for fame and fortune, is prepared to play on the weaknesses of both his relatives and their close friends to move up the social ladder. This, he believes, is achievable by pandering to their narcissism and cruelly defaming those that try to stand up to him. Unable to contain an abhorrence of his victims, Gloumov decides to record his suppressed venomous thoughts in his diary. However, the journal is discovered by some of Gloumov’s wealthy acquaintances with unwelcome results.
A simple tale, however, Ostrovsky’s gallery of grotesques carry on with all of the congratulatory loquaciousness of the selfcentred. It is difficult to feel any sympathy for their plight as their lack of warmth prohibits affection.
Ostrovsky’s plays are of varied character, including dramatic chronicles based on early Russian history and the fairy drama “Little Snowdrop.” But above all else he was a Realist. He rarely used drama to address great moral or social problems. He was not a revolutionary thinker or an opponent of existing society. Instead, his ideal was honesty, kindliness, generosity, and loyalty to the traditions of the past. Men and women live and love, trade and cheat in Ostrovsky as they do in the world every day. In him we can study the life of Russia as he knew it, crude and coarse and at times cruel, yet full of virtue and aspiration.