The Proposal follows three characters, Chubukov (a landowner), Natalia (his daughter), and Lomov (their neighbor). In this play, Lomov arrives to ask for Natalia to marry him. After receiving permission from her father (who had first assumed that he had come to borrow money), he goes to speak to Natalia.
When bringing up the subject of his proposal, Lomov brings up the respective histories of their two families as neighbors and, in that context, introduces the subject of his ownership of the "Oxen Meadows." This begins the dispute, because Natalia claims that the meadows are actually still property to her own family. The play then descends into an argument over who has the right to said property, an argument which causes Lomov to be driven out of the house in physical distress.
It is at this point that Chubukov mentions that Lomov had actually come to ask her hand in marriage. Eager to be married herself, Natalia now shows an abrupt change of heart. Lomov is brought back, but very soon they begin another dispute, this time over who has the better dog.