In "The Man in a Shell" how is Chekhov's view of love different from the romantic view of love in Romeo and Juliet?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The  views of love presented in "The Man in a Shell" and Romeo and Juliet seem to have nothing in common at all, so you might say they are different in every regard. Marva, the wife of the Elder, is antisocial and a recluse who is more than a little eccentric as she goes tap tap tapping through the silent depth of night. The view of love presented here is a parallel to the general view that is expressed by Burkin: "Come to think of it, most of our young ladies don't care whom they marry so long as they do marry." One married lady we learn very little about is the principal's wife who is inspired with the idea that "It would be a good thing to marry them off." This is a glimmer of a favored opinion of marriage that reveals love may  be an unessential thing.

The major "romance" of Chekhov's story, between Varenka and Belikov, is opposite of that in Romeo and Juliet in every regard. Romeo and Juliet were impetuous and married immediately. Belikov must wait to propose to see that nothing adverse would come of it. The one couple was energetic and full of lively energy. The other was constrained and hedged in by routine.

In fact, the beginning of the end for Varenka's hopes came when Belikov saw her riding a bicycle on an outing. While Romeo didn't try to convince Juliet's parents in his favor, Belikov tried to reprimand Varenka's brother after this so he would act with more decorum. When Varenka saw Belikov prostrate after his tumble downstairs, her love led her to burst into her robust laughter. When Juliet saw Romeo prostrate in the tomb, her love led her to plunge a dagger into her heart.     

just as he was rolling down the stairs, Varenka came in, accompanied by two ladies; they stood below, staring, ... Varenka recognized him and, looking at his ludicrous face, his crumpled overcoat, and his rubbers, ... and burst into laughter that resounded throughout the house ....


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