Discuss the title of the play?
Anton Chekhov is the most eminent Russian playwright who is universally regarded as the greatest Russian storyteller and dramatist of modern times.
“The Bear” is one of his highly cherished comic works. This one–act play is written with the purpose of exposing the hypocrisy, pretension, falsity and artificiality of the feudal class of his country. It is light heartedly presented to set focus on a deep social trend. The title is ironic. The heroine of the play rebukes the hero and calls him, “a coarse bear, a bourbon! a monster. But at the end she accepts his love and is driven into his arms forgetting all her claims of love for her late husband and her proposed dislike for Smirnov… the bear. Bear is thought to be a greedy, impertinent and totally uncontrollable animal. So the bear may symbolically point towards the hero of the play. Smirnov is ill mannered and violent but at the same time he is a very passionate man. He is haughty and boorish. His attitude with Popova is very harsh and impolite that reveals his bear like nature. So the title is meant to represent Mr. Smirnov and his true nature.
What is Luka telling Popova?
Popova is a young lady whose husband has died seven months ago. She is in mourning and is wearing black dress. She has shunned every relation with the outside world and is confined to the four-walled grave of her room. She has a servant named Luka. Luka is very sincere to his mistress and has deep concern for her welfare.
As the play starts in Popova’s drawing room, Luka is trying to convince his mistress to abandon her prolonged mourning and come out of her cocoon of so-called grief. He tries to make her realize that she is wasting her life in a futile way. He rightly says that one cannot die with the dead. People come and go but life goes on. He tells her that she was still young and beautiful and could easily settle down in her life by marrying a young officer. She should take interest in life and its pleasures. She should go out and see other people. These words of Luka produce a very irritating effect on her and she asks him not to talk to her in that way because she can never think of leaving her husband’s memory and that she would remain true even to his grave. All these claims of Popova prove flimsy and they collapse as soon as the very first man knocks at the door of her heart
Why did Smirnov come to Popova’s house?
Popova was a young lady whose husband had died seven months ago. Her husband had been in the farm business and used to buy oats from a man called Smirnov. There was some of his money still unpaid so he came to get that money back. He was in a desperate need of money because he had to pay the installments on his mortgaged land. He visited all his creditors but could not get anything. Then he travelled seventy miles from his home to Nicolai Mihailovotch’s village. There he was confronted with Nicola’s widow, Popova, who did not want to pay him anything. Thus ensued an exchange of bitter and cynical remarks that concluded at the decision of marrying each other.
What did Popova think of her late husband?
Popova was married to Nicolai Mihailovitch, who died seven months ago. She remained in mourning for a long time and had shut herself in the four walls of her own room. She broke every relation with the outside world. While talking to her servant, Luka, she revealed her views about her late husband. She said that he was a faithless and treacherous husband who had love affairs with many other ladies. After his death she discovered a whole drawer full of love letters. She said that he betrayed her, made fun of her feelings and made love to other woman. He spoiled her money, youth and life. She had very adverse feelings about him. She was in mourning only to show that unlike him, she was a faithful wife who was loyal to her husband even after his death. She wanted to show it to her late husband as well as to the world that she was an emotional and loving wife.
But the reality contradicted all her claims of loyalty and show that how petty and artificial she was. She had hypocritically simulated an outward show of love and loyalty when at heart she had some other motives. Smirnov rightly mocked at her by saying that her mourning was just a false show and that she wanted to present herself as a mysterious and romantic “Tamara” before the world.
What were Smirnov’s views about ladies?
Smirnov is a retired army officer and a respectable landowner of a nearby village. He comes to Popova’s house to get his money back that he has lent to her late husband.
In the course of their discussion, they start arguing about the character of ladies and men. Popova holds the view that all the men are scoundrels and they exploit ladies for their own purposes. She cites the instance of her own late husband who has been cruel and disloyal. In response, Smirnov badly ridicules ladies and their ways. He says that ladies are false and artificial… they hook a man by nose to fulfill their vested interests. He tells that he himself has a great experience with ladies and knows their true nature. The ladies only make an outward show of their affection and never love anyone truly. Ladies easily shift their affection from one person to another. He further says that ladies behave like crocodiles and they shed tears to attract and trap a man. They can love a lap dog but not a man. They are soft from outside but from inside they are very cunning, wicked and cruel. He even goes further and criticizes Popova herself and makes fun of her mourning dress and her make up. He also laughs at her for being locked up in her home. All these remarks show that he has very negative views about ladies.
What is the end of the play?
This play presents a blend of contradictory situations. Although it begins with a sad note but its middle and specially its end is very sudden and surprising. Popova is shown in deep mourning at the start and she recalls her husband with inconsistent emotions. Smirnov comes to her home to get his money back. He needs money to pay the interest on his mortgaged land other wise that may be confiscated but Popova can not do so as her steward isn’t in the town and she herself has no spare cash. Here starts a fierce verbal war…they criticize each other. They both abuse each other in a harsh way. Smirnov makes fun of Popova and the ladies in general while Popova condemns men. He feels like breaking her head and she calls him very offensive names. They decide even to shoot each other. But… without any forewarning, Smirnov falls in love. He expresses his love in his natural insolent style and proposes her. On the other side Popova is in a conflict…she doesn’t want to lose Smirnov but at the same time she doesn’t want to shun her ostentatious image of a faithful widow. She oscillates between “yes” and “no” asking him to go at once and then shouting, “Where are you going”. Finally she turns away from her pretension and is driven into his arms. Quite unexpectedly they accept each other as life partners.
This play is a criticism on the hypocritical attitude of upper class. Discuss
Chekhov often uses the drama to reveal the variety of attitudes in the society, his main concern being the hypocrisy of feudal class and the pragmatism of newly emerging economic sector.
This play revolves around two characters that accidentally come face to face. Both belong to the landed gentry of Russia…both are single. Smirnov is shown without a wife while Popova’s husband has died seven months back. They go through a disagreement on matter of the payment of some money. During their negotiations, they reveal their true personalities before the reader or audience. The heroine of the play is an affected lady who tries to give an artificial show of modesty and innocence. She vehemently asserts her loyalty with her late husband but in the same breath she unlocks a profound bulk of complaints against him. She cries and faints in an artificial way. She is all in all a hypocrite because she exploits her husband’s death as an occasion to affirm herself as mysterious goddesses of devotion and fidelity.
She treats her guest very rudely and starts a proper brawl with him…. calls him names and is ready even to shoot him. She pretends to dislike him but at heart she cherishes tender feelings for him. Her attitude is full of contradictions…she says “yes” and “no” at the same moment. She represents the ladies of upper class who have dual personalities and hide their true self in the curtain of false show of humility and devotion. Their true motive is ease and material comfort but apparently they take many sham stances.
Smirnov is an inconsistent person who too, like Popova, wavers badly in his manners. He is agitated and disappointed. He needs money but he at once forgets all about it and falls in love. A little earlier he has given very adverse remarks about love and behaviour of ladies but he takes no time in practically refuting all that he has said earlier. He is rude in handling a lady…loses temper and childishly challenges her to fight a dual with pistols. Then quite unexpectedly he goes on his knees offering his hand to the lady he was about to shoot moments ago.
All these factors point towards the superficial life style of upper class where it is very hard to differentiate between real and false. People are heartless and pragmatic; they even capitalize the circumstance caused by some loved-one’s death.
Draw the character sketches of:
Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov is a vibrant and striking comic figure. His character has been delineated in a realistic but compassionate way.
He is a Russian landowner who has previously been a lieutenant of artillery. He is not physically described but his actions and manners show him to be an energetic fellow. He is violent and hyperactive… breaks too many of Popova’s chairs. He is rude, ill mannered and can’t control his temper. In spite of his apparent hard surface he proves to be a very passionate man at the end.
He is in dire need of money because he has to pay the interest on his mortgaged land. If he fails to pay the money he may lose his land. He goes to all the people who are in his debt but none of them pays anything to him rather they take him non seriously. So he can’t be called a successful businessman. He rebukes all his debtors in an agitated way. Even he behaves with Popova in a very impolite manner and makes fun of her mourning. He goes too far in his demand of money and uses even abusive words and threatening manners. But at the end forgets all about money and interest.
He keeps very bad opinion about women and thinks them to be false and trivial. He says that a lady doesn’t know what the love and sufferings are; they only enjoy the impatience of their lovers and try to hook them hard by nose. They only make outward show of love by crying and fainting while men give all the sacrifices in love. He takes his indictment further and says that women can easily shift their affection from one lover to another but they can truly love their lapdogs only. He ridicules them by calling them “softer sex” in a sarcastic way. He even makes Popova a prey of his criticism and exclaims in a stinging way, “you may have buried yourself alive, but you haven’t forgotten to powder your face!” This is a very serious denunciation of women folk.
He has a vast experience of love; three times he has fought duals on account of ladies. He has refused twelve women, and nine have refused him. He tells Popova that there has been a time when he used to love and suffer like a young boy; he has spent his emotions and money on such things. Now he claims to have left all these things and has taken a vow not to love a lady any more… but he cant stand by his guarantee and falls in love with Popova. He is trapped in the snare of her dazzling looks and her courageous dynamic attitude. He expresses his love in an unusually rude way but is accepted by his counterpart who too possesses an equally pulsating personality.
Thus it will not be an exaggeration to say that Smirnov’s character cannot be easily erased from the memory of the reader or audience.
Popova is a pleasantly conceived, multi dimensional character. She is young and very beautiful, “with roses in her cheeks”. She is very careful about her looks and doesn’t forget to apply cosmetics even in her mourning.
Her husband has died seven months ago and she has vowed not to go out and see other people in her extended mourning. She has shut herself in the four walls of her room. She pretends to be much moved at her husband’s death but infact it is not more than eyewash. She is hypocrite in her attitude. She never enjoyed good relations with her husband who used to betray her. He had love-relations with other ladies and made fun of her feelings. He used to leave her alone for weeks and wasted her money on other ladies… but she wants to show his soul that she is not like him. She tries to prove herself as a faithful wife. She unrealistically longs to bury herself alive but the very first person, she meets, shatters her so-called idealism and she readily agrees to marry a well to do land lord.
Her servant Luka tries to make her realize the reality that she may lose her chances in life by such an unrealistic attitude of cutting herself off from everyone else. He says that her good looks will be finished in some years and then she will have to live a miserably lonesome life. She reacts strongly and is not ready to listen anything against her mourning but soon she forgets all of this and decides to marry again. She is not a good housekeeper as none of her servants except Luka is available to her. All have gone out without her knowledge.
She is a very rude and ill-mannered lady. She treats her late husband’s friend very roughly who is under her roof as a guest. She bluntly tells Smirnov that she can’t pay him money unless her steward is back. She doesn’t try to understand his problem and goes on blowing the trumpet of her critical “state of mind” due to mourning. She doesn’t hesitate to start verbal row with a stranger and talks to him in an angry manner. She uses very rough language and calls him, “bear, bear! bear”. She criticizes all men and specially her late husband. She takes Smirnov’s insult of ladies very seriously and retorts with spirit. She is a courageous lady and couldn’t be subdued by Smirnov’s aggressive manners. She is willing to fight with him and brings her husband’s pistols though she has never held a pistol in her hand before.
She is in conflict when Smirnov proposes her; she doesn’t want to let him go but can’t immediately decide to stop him. She moves back and forth in her desire to be loved and her ambition to be called a faithful widow. At last she discreetly decides in favour of Smirnov and is ready to get married again.
On the whole she is an enjoyable figure who never fails to amuse the reader though she has some negative aspects too. Her beauty and vigour make her a treat for the reader and audience.