The fact that the climax of the work is a natural and fairly commonplace event conveys the muted tone of 'The Steppe': Chekhov seeks to accurately reflect life in the Russia of his youth. He therefore manages to resist the easy temptation to slip into allegory during the boy's journey, and allows his narrative to peter out into a flat, restrained ending. Chekhov even parodies a desire for melodrama in the campfire stories that occupy the central part of the novella: the boy wonders why one of the men he is travelling with insists on peddling fabrications, when his own life has been so interesting.
That is not to say that Chekhov is scathing or resentful. As with the best of his work, 'The Steppe' contains a blend of light and dark humour and tragedy, seeming to accurately represent the more varied tones of everyday life. Chekhov's treatment of his characters is similarly balanced: while he seems to be generally affectionate, he does not shy away from relating the flaws of his constructs. Few explicit details are given, but the implications become clear; that Chekhov manages to create such depth with so little prompting, and so few narrative events, demonstrates his mastery. 'The Steppe' somehow falls short of the great, intangible, indefinable feeling of profundity that haunts Chekhov's best work, yet its richness and vividness of character, location and life make it compelling.