In the play "The Bear" by Anton Chekhov, what do the main characters learn, and what does Chekhov want the audience to learn?

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The main characters in “The Bear” learn that you can find love in unexpected places, and that it’s important to live your life.

In this short play, a widow named Elena Popova mourns the loss of her husband by locking herself up in her house.  She is “is in deep mourning and has her eyes fixed on a photograph” of her husband as the play opens.  Her footman Luka tries to convince her to go out and live her life, but she swears that as long as her husband is in his grave she will remain in her house.

Elena lives a lonely life.  She visits no one and has no visitors.  Yet when Grigory Smirnov shows up insisting her husband owes her money, she has to face the outside world.  Luka cannot get the man to leave, even though Elena insists, “I do not re-ceive!”

When Elena and Smirnov spar, the reader learns the same lesson that they do.  We cannot shut ourselves up and shut the world out.  Life is for living.  Sometimes you find love in the most unusual places.

Even though Smirnov and Elena think they hate each other, their passionate hate turns into passionate love.  Smirnov is angry at himself for being “in love like a student.”

I love you! What do I want to fall in love with you for? To-morrow I've got to pay the interest, and begin mowing, and here you....

Elena resists at first, but then relents.  Sometimes you have to follow your heart.

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