A provincial town, a local hospital, an outbuilding for the mentally ill… The condition of this building, and of the hospital itself, is extremely miserable-everything old, half ruined, in the courtyard and in the rooms there is an unbearable stench. In such conditions, there are five residents of Chamber No. 6, the only one in the ward, and the guardian Nikita. Nikita is a retired soldier, a rough, well-built man, who loves to “educate” his fists with his fists. Patients belong to different nationalities and estates, but for society within the walls of the hospital all have the same title – crazy.
The first is a melancholic nameless philistine who spends his days sitting on the bed and looking at one point. Judging by his painful appearance, he begins to consume.
Once the stagnant life of this crazy kingdom was stirred up – the patient began to visit the doctor, Andrei Efimych Ragin. This is “a remarkable man of his kind,” a brilliant specialist who, however, treats his patients with complete indifference. He believes that death is the natural end of every person, and there is no point in delaying it with treatment. In his youth, Ragin dreamed of becoming a priest, but his father insisted that he follow in his footsteps and become a doctor.
Ragin is intelligent and judicious, but a spineless person, he does not have the courage to insist on his own. Andrei Yefimitch is slowly drinking: he has a habit of drinking a glass of vodka every half hour. Ragin’s routine is monotonous: in the morning he visits the hospital, “working more for the sake of sight”, at lunchtime and drinks beer, and in the evenings receives postmaster Michael Averyanich, who constantly complains about his fate. After the departure of the guest, Ragin sits down for books and reads them with rapture.
But even reading does not distract him from sad reflections about the uselessness of his work: he realizes that medicine has made great progress in the last twenty-five years, but these achievements will not yet touch his district hospital for a very long time. This oppresses Ragin. One day he visits room number 6 and starts a conversation about the essence of life with Gromov. The patient proves that if there is willpower, a person can rid himself of the ordeals and build his life as he pleases. Ragin, on the other hand, believes that suffering must be taken as a milestone on a life’s path outlined above, and it is pointless and useless to fight for something better.
They do not find a common language, but gradually a kind of friendship is tied between them. Ragin begins to come more often to ward number 6 and this causes rumors among the other doctors. Especially attentive to Andrei Efimych is the ambitious doctor Hobotov, who wants to take his place. Khobotov spreads rumors about Ragin’s insanity and soon begin to whisper behind him, and then summon him to the city government. Under the pretext of a meeting on the improvement of the hospital, officials are trying to find out if Ragin is ill. He understands that he is trying to sit up, but does nothing because of his spinelessness.
Soon he is offered to resign. Ragin obediently accepts this turn of fate and goes to Warsaw with postmaster Michael Averyanich to disperse. However, they do not reach the Polish capital: the postmaster loses all his money in cards and his friends return to the city. After returning, Ragin falls into depression: he has nothing to occupy himself, Gromov does not want to communicate because of the aggravation of his illness, he was not given a pension. Ragin regrets about a thousand rubles spent on the trip, he understands that now they would have come in handy. Disorder in the already unstable state of mind of the former doctor makes visits to Khobotov. Hobotov’s hypocritical sympathy, which calls him “colleague”, is contrary to Ragin, he comforts himself with the thought that all this is passing and sooner or later all his enemies and envious people will die.
One day Ragin is visited by Khobotov and the postmaster. Andrei Yefimitch in a fit of anger drives them out, then, tormented by shame, goes to apologize. The postmaster Michael Averyanovich assures that he is not angry with him and asks to go to the hospital. Ragin says that he does not care, “even in the pit.” In the evening Andrei Yefimych is again visited by Khobotov and asks with impassive kindness to come to the hospital for a consultation. Ragin is touching, he starts to think that Khobotov is actually a good person.
In the hospital, Khobotov leads Ragin into an outbuilding for the mentally ill and asks him to wait in ward number 6, while he allegedly descends behind a stethoscope. The former doctor does not know that in fact he does not already leave these walls. Half an hour later, the watchman Nikita arrives and brings Ragina a hospital attire. Andrei Yefimich understands the situation, but humbly accepts this blow, thinking that all this vanity is vanishing. Gromov gloats, offering a former friend to philosophize. At night, Ragin becomes frightened by the realization of his despair, he begins to riot and Nikita beats him.
The day of Andrei Yefimich is visited by the postmaster and cook Daryushka, as well as Khobotov, who brings the medicine. And in the evening Ragin dies from an apoplectic attack. At the funeral were only his friend Mikhail Averyanovich and the cook.