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"If you won't pay up now, I'll have to put my head in a gas oven tomorrow." What does...

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temy | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted February 25, 2013 at 9:04 AM via web

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"If you won't pay up now, I'll have to put my head in a gas oven tomorrow." What does the above quotation say about Smirnov in The Bear?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 30, 2013 at 11:52 PM (Answer #1)

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When Gregory Smirnov, "landed gentleman and lieutenant of artillery retired," enters, he does so without the usual courtesy of his class, an early sign of his disillusionment with life. After he clarifies the purpose of his visit, Mrs. Popov tells him that she cannot pay him until the day after tomorrow. But, Smirnov complains that the bailiffs will come for him. 

Smirnov is desperate to pay the excise man the interest he owes that is due tomorrow; he refuses to leave Mrs. Popov's house, even though she complains that she is in "no fit state to discuss money." He informs her that he has called upon everyone who owes him money, but to no avail.

I'm dog tired. I spend the night in some God-awful place. Then I fetch up here, fifty miles from home, hoping to see the color of my money only to be fobbed off with this "no fit state" stuff! How can I keep my temper?

Clearly, Smirnov is desperate, angry, and in a state of despair. In Scene 8, after his wild pleas and complaints that no one else will pay him, Smirnov tells Mrs. Popov that he will have no choice but to put his head in a gas oven the next day and commit suicide if she will not pay him the money owed to him by her husband. But Mrs. Popov is unmoved by his desperate words, words that seem to have been said only to appeal to Mrs. Popov's charity. For, after she denies him, Smirnov says that he will "stick around here till I do get my money," suggesting that he really has had no intention of committing suicide.

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