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How is hypocrisy linked with the characters, Popova and Smirnov, in Anton Chekov's...

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verdahmanzoor | Student, College Freshman | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted October 2, 2008 at 2:50 PM via web

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How is hypocrisy linked with the characters, Popova and Smirnov, in Anton Chekov's play The Bear?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 13, 2011 at 2:02 PM (Answer #1)

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In Anton Chekov's The Bear, we see examples of hypocrisy in the behavior of Popova and Smirnov.

When Smirnov arrives at Popova's home to collect a debt, he finds that Popova's husband is dead and that she will have to wait a day or more to get him his money. He is extremely angry. The more they talk, the angrier he becomes. He becomes so frustrated, that he starts to find fault with Popova—who has never met him before, and is actually in mourning for her husband (a lout) who has been dead for a year.

Smirnov goes on to reflect how much he dislikes women. He can tell you how many he has been involved with, declares that he has sworn off all women, and has a list of their undesirable characteristics. He has had it with women. He also criticizes the women who wish to be treated equally with men. On and on Smirnov goes...until he notices that when Popova gets angry (as she is with him), she is something to behold: beautiful and appealing. Soon the woman-hater has fallen deeply in love with this woman he believed was so insincere, sneaky and rude.

Another example of hypocrisy is found when the play opens. Luka, a servant in Popova's home, is begging his mistress to go outside and take in some fresh air. He implores that she stop mourning for her late husband, which she has been doing for a year. Popova refuses. She reminds her husband's picture that while he was unfaithful and cruel to her in life, she shall show him now that he is dead how faithful she can be...how faithful she always was. And she promises she will mourn him for the remainder of her life.

Popova tells Smirnov what she knows of "faithful and constant" men. She describes her late husband's behavior:

This best of men shamelessly deceived me at every step! After his death I found in his desk a whole drawerful of love-letters...he used to leave me alone for weeks at a time, and make love to other women...he wasted my money, and made fun of my feelings....

Popova goes on to tell Smirnov how she feels about him:

What pleasure it will give me to put a bullet into your thick head! Devil take you!

They agree to fight a duel (an idea Popova accepts without hesitation); she cannot stand Smirnov, finding him obnoxious beyond words. Then Smirnov begins to admire her spirit and fire, and annoyance and anger turn to approval and then love. When Popova hears Smirnov say he will not shoot at her, she is insulted. This man is a joke: is he afraid of her? When he admits that he loves her, she is infuriated. However, as Luka and the other servants arrive to save her, they find the couple in a passionate embrace. Both, who had so much to say about how constant they were in their dedication—one to mourning and the other to the rejection of all women—have completely changed their minds.

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