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How is the play "The Bear" light-hearted satire of the ways of the Russian aristocracy?

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bered | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 30, 2011 at 8:59 PM via web

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How is the play "The Bear" light-hearted satire of the ways of the Russian aristocracy?

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 15, 2012 at 4:27 AM (Answer #1)

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“The Bear” makes fun of the way the aristocracy lives.  Elena, the widow, lives off her money and refuses to leave the house.  Smirnov, another wealthy landowner, lives by borrowing and lending money.

Elena Popova is brooding over the picture of her husband six months after he died in the beginning of the play.  She has interred herself in her house.  This is a silly thing to do, from a silly woman. She has the luxury of grief because she is rich.  She was also loyal to him even though by her own admission he treated her terribly and cheated on her, yet still expected her to be loyal to his memory.

I loved him passionately with all my being, as only a young and imaginative woman can love, I gave him my youth, my happiness, my life, my fortune, I breathed in him, I worshipped him as if I were a heathen, and... and what then?

Smirnov seems to be the opposite of Elena’s husband.  It seems that in his relationships, he was the one who loved.  However, he also appears to have had his heart broken.

I used to love passionately, madly, every blessed way, devil take me; I used to chatter like a magpie about emancipation, and wasted half my wealth on tender feelings, but now--you must excuse me! 

Smirnov and Elena have real problems, but they are the problems of the aristocracy.  Smirnov goes comically from being very polite when asking for the money to being very rude when she cannot give it to him.

Just as he changes his manners, he changes his passions.  He goes from being angry at her and all women-kind to kissing her and falling in love with her dimples.

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