"His reading suggested a man swimming in the sea among the wreckage of his ship, and trying to save his life by greedily clutching first at one spar and then at another...."
See in text (Part I)
Through metaphorical language, Chekhov likens the lawyer’s voracious reading habits to the behavior of someone who has been shipwrecked and tries to save himself by grasping at spars, or masts, of the downed ship. The metaphor suggests that the lawyer reads as if he is trying to save himself from destruction, using his books to pull himself out of the water.
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"He was a skeleton with the skin drawn tight over his bones, with long curls like a woman’s and a shaggy beard...."
See in text (Part II)
In his description of the lawyer, Chekhov makes clear the effects of solitary confinement. The man is metaphorically likened to a gaunt and sickly skeleton whose “skin [is] drawn tight over the bones.” The imagery of the man is grotesque and morbid, and the passage causes readers to pause for an instant.