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What is the theme of "The Proposal" by Anton Chekhov?

What is the theme of "The Proposal" by Anton Chekhov? 

The major theme of Chekhov's The Proposal is the cold approach to marriage that had been common in nineteenth-century Russia, especially among the wealthy. The play, as a satire for this money-driven type of marriage, depicts the two main characters as excessively posh and desperately wanting to wed each other for economic security, blind to the fact they would not get along well.

 

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In this one-act play, Chekhov satirizes marriage conventions among the land-owning aristocracy of Russia in the nineteenth century. The characters of Natalya Stepanovna, who is twenty-five years old, and Ivan Vassilevitch Lomov, who is thirty-five years old, are so ill-suited to one another that it seems they will not even have a "honeymoon phase" of their relationship.

Normally, the beginnings of relationships are all fun and romance and flirtation, but the beginning of this relationship is all fighting and arguing and name-calling! If this is how these two behave in the beginning of a relationship, imagine how they might treat each other five or ten or twenty years in!

Ivan clearly feels some pressure to marry soon; he remarks that he is "already 35—a critical age," and he hopes to begin a "quiet and regular life" with a wife. He says that he has no time "to look for an ideal love, or for real love." If he were to wait and hope, it might soon become too late for him to get married. He does not propose to Natalya because he loves her—not even because he particularly likes her—but because she's "an excellent housekeeper, not bad-looking, well-educated," and so on. She seems suitable, and that must be good enough for him.

But, Chekhov seems to ask, must it? Rather than soothing him, interacting with her actually increases Lomov's feelings of illness and his heart palpitations. He hopes that his life will improve upon marriage, but it quickly begins to decline—and they aren't even married yet!

Chekhov, thus, conveys the idea that we cannot look to marriage to make us happy; we must find happiness ourselves. Further, we must marry for better reasons than for improving our financial status or class; we ought to marry because we are truly well-suited to our partner and they to us.

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The theme of Anton Chekhov's "The Proposal" stems from the cultural practice of nineteenth-century Russia as economic stability for the gentry rested in the possession of as much land as possible since the potential for the production of agrarian products promised monetary profit.  Therefore, in this one-act farce the theme is that economic security takes precedence over romance and love.

It is certainly of interest that Lomov is thrity-five years old and his neighbor Natalia is twenty-five, well past the age of most brides at the time of the play's setting. This fact suggests that Lomov's motivation is not romantic, but practical.  Underscoring this idea is Lomov's reluctance to say anything in this romantic vein to Natalia; instead, he speaks of the meadows, suggesting that the possession of land is foremost in his mind.

LOMOV I'll try to be brief. My dear Natalia Stepanovna, as you know, for many years...I inherited the estate, always have the greatest respect for your brother and ...mother....and furthermore my property....my meadows touch your birchwoods.

As he broaches his proposal of marriage, Lomov speaks at length of property, thus indicating that marriage is symbolic of economic considerations, reinforcing the theme of marriage as contract for economic security.  Reinforcing this theme, too, are the actions of the Tschubukovs who, although engaged in heated arguments with Lomov, scurry to bring him out of a faint to enough consciousness that he can agree to the marriage with Natalia which the father ironically proposes.

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In The Proposal by Anton Checkov, the theme is that marriage is not as romantic as some people believe. The theme is based on two people who love each other by fighting. Lomov and Natayla act like a married couple before they become engaged. They are argumentative from the start. No doubt, the theme is that married people inevitably fight, even before they say I do. 

The author's tone is satirical as he presents characters who are destined to be married due to their argumentative personalities. Truly, the author sees married life as a continual disagreement. No doubt, the author understands what marriage can do to two people who are argumentative. 

The climax occurs when Lomov and Natalya stop arguing long enough to kiss and then return to arguing. Truly, this couple is destined to marry for they have the fighting aspect of married life down to an art. They were born for each other. Their argumentative nature is innate. They are unquestionably a couple made for each other:

Lomov ‘s intention is to propose and once Natasha knows this her intention is to be his wife, however, the behaviour of the characters contradict this and they end up in petty arguments yet again. The comedy arises from these contradictions and their irony rather than the misunderstandings of a typical vaudeville

Checkov is a master at producing a satirical comedy that is so realistic. No doubt, he has experienced the characteristics of married life. Any couple intending to marry should read The Proposal and think twice before marrying. The irony and comedy arises from the fact that this marriage will not be a happy one. But then again, how many marriages end in happily ever after? Is fighting an integral part of marriage?

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