Compare and contrast Popova and Smirnov within the play The Bear by Anton Chekhov.

Popova and Smirnov are both members of the Russian upper-classes, landowners who insist on ensuring that their rights are respected, come what may. Impulsive and emotionally immature, they have no qualms about resorting to violence to get their way, even if it results in death. A further point to note is that they both show themselves willing to challenge the niceties of social convention.

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In many respects, Popova and Smirnov are like two peas in a pod. For one thing, they come from the same social background. Both hailing from the landowning upper-classes, they are imbued with a deep sense of pride that manifests itself in their insistent demands that they get their own way. Smirnov is determined that he will get back the money owed to him by Popova's late husband. As for Popova, she is equally adamant that she will not deal with financial matters while she's still in mourning. There is clearly a very strong clash of wills here. Imbued with the haughty arrogance of their class, neither Popova nor Smirnov is prepared to back down any time soon.

But it's not just class that's important here; personality counts as well. Both Popova and Smirnov are very passionate individuals who are somewhat immature when it comes to handling their emotions. This leads them to challenge prevailing social conventions. Smirnov does this by demanding repayment of the money that's owed to him by Popova's recently-deceased husband even though Popova is still in mourning. Whereas Popova defies convention by agreeing to Smirnov's challenge of a duel, something that no respectable woman, certainly not a woman of her social class, would normally dream of doing.

At the end of the play, one is left with the abiding impression that Popova and Smirnov richly deserve each other, so similar are their volatile, emotional personalities.

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In The Bear, a one-act farce, the exchange between the two main characters, Yelena Ivanova Popova and Gregory Stepanovich Smirnov, is extreme, as these characters both possess intense emotions and are impulse-driven. Certainly, they swiftly prejudge the other and accelerate their antipathies about the opposite sex.

Popova, who has forgiven her deceased husband his many indiscretions, now decides to dedicate herself to his memory by going into mourning. She addresses her dead husband, a philanderer who left her for weeks, in fond tones, telling him she will be "true to [him] till the grave." She refuses to listen to her servant Luka's encouragements to get out and socialize. 

She is not left alone, however, as Smirnov arrives in order to collect a debt. At first he is polite:

I am Grigory Stepanovitch Smirvov, landowner and retired lieutenant of artillery! I am compelled to disturb you on a very pressing affair.

He tells her that her husband died in debt to him for "one thousand two hundred roubles, on two bills of exchange." Since he must pay the interest on a mortgage the next day, he needs the money this day. But Popova refuses, saying she cannot pay him until her steward returns the next day, and an argument ensues. Neither will concede.

Smirnov refuses to leave her house. As they argue, he accuses her of trying to use feminine wiles against him. This angers her even more, and they argue back and forth about the faults of the other gender. Finally, Smirnov says they should just have a duel. Surprisingly, Popova agrees, although she has never fired a pistol. Smirnov explains about the guns, then he shows her how they work:

You must hold the revolver like this.... [Aside] Her eyes, her eyes! What an inspiring woman!

When Popova declares that she is ready to duel, Smirnov has changed. He tells her he will only shoot into the air because he loves her. She insists that he fire his gun, but Smirnov declares,

You can't understand what happiness it would be to die before those beautiful eyes, to be shot by a revolver held in that little, velvet hand.... I'm out of my senses! 

Popova wants to continue with the feud, but when he kisses her, her protests and her words of hate end abruptly. She, too, falls in love; however, she probably would not have felt any tenderness toward Smirnov if he had not displayed deep feelings toward her.

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Popova and Smirnov are both land owners. They both avoid contact with the opposite sex although they end up together in the end. Popova lost her husband, who she later discovered was unfaithful. She had completely dedicated herself to the marriage and was completely faithful to her husband. She did not consider remarrying and instead locked herself up in her home as a show of fidelity. Smirnov avoided contact because he did not trust in the opposite sex. He blamed them for all the trouble that he and men, in general, went through, trying to settle down. Popova and Smirnov were both assertive with regards to their position on the opposite sex.

Popova and Smirnov differed, in that, Popova thought men were unfaithful. Smirnov, on the other hand, thought it was women who were unfaithful. Popova tried to be decent and respectful, but Smirnov was rude and sarcastic from the onset of their conversation.

POPOVA: No, you don't! You're a rude, ill-bred man! Decent people don't talk to a woman like that!

SMIRNOV: What a business! How do you want me to talk to you? In French, or what?

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