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In "The Proposal" by Anton Chekhov, how does satire help to convey the tone of the play?

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kareemoo | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted June 7, 2013 at 4:05 PM via web

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In "The Proposal" by Anton Chekhov, how does satire help to convey the tone of the play?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 8, 2013 at 6:49 AM (Answer #1)

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Anton Chekhov's "The Proposal" is usually classified as a farce, rather than satire, because it is a short work that focuses on a single idea in a limited way with comical stereotypes such as the hypochondriac [Lomov], the shrew [Natalia], and the hypocrite [Tschubukov]. Farce is further identified by exaggeration and absurdity, two other elements in Chekhov's one-act play.

As a farce, then, "The Proposal," or "The Marriage Proposal" as it is often translated, sets a tone of absurdity with such elements as slapstick. Such exaggerated actions that exceed the limits of common sense are exemplified in Lomov who gulps down water, puts his hand over his heart, runs to the door and "staggers out."  After he leaves, Natalia becomes "hysterical," falling back into an armchair "and groans" for some time. The quick turn of feeling from cordiality to hurling of insults such as Lomov's calling Tschubukov a "Swindler" and his returning the insult to Lomov, terming him "Intriguer!" also exemplifies slapstick as does Tschubkov's screaming that he will kill himself and his later rushing between his daughter and Lomov as the suitor begins to faint, crying that he is dying. Joining the hands of his daughter and neighbor, Tschubukov shouts,

"Get married! She's agreed! Only leave me in peace!"

Thus, the farcical basis of "The Proposal" is the fact that Lumov himself is never able to propose.

Another form of slapstick humor is practical jokes, such as the one that the father plays upon his daughter. When Tschubukov, instead of telling his daughter that Lumov has come to propose marriage, informs her that there is "a dealer who has come to buy something."

These elements of exaggeration and absurdity set the tone of ridicule by Chekhov in depicting the pettiness of Russian landowners who place the consideration of property and personal pride over love and marriage. Their hypocrisy is also depicted in the placement of economic considerations over those of love and romance.

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