In "The Proposal" by Anton Chekhov, what idea does each of the characters represent?

Expert Answers

Want to remove ads?

Get ad-free questions with an eNotes 48-hour free trial.

Try It Free No Thanks
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a farce, such as "The Proposal" by Anton Chekhov, characters are painted in broad, uncomplicated strokes. In other words, their gestures and reactions are often stereotypical, and there are no subtle internal contradictions within them. The three characters of this one-act play possess comical traits that conform to a set pattern of behavior:

  • Tschubukov is hypocritical and impetuous.  

When, for instance, he greets Lomov, he is friendly and warm, hugging his neighbor after he asks for Natalia's hand in marriage. However, when he hears his daughter and Lomov arguing and rushes in, and his daughter asks him to "tell this gentleman to whom the meadows belong," he quickly declares, "My dear fellow, the meadows are ours." Then, when Lomov staggers out, Tschubukov insults Lomov,

TSCHUBUKOV The devil! think that this fool dares to make a proposal of marriage!

After Natalia learns that Lomov has meant to propose, she becomes hysterical, a condition that triggers Tschubukov to impetuously shout, 

TSCHUBUKOV I'm cursed with bad luck! I'll shoot myself! I'll hang myself!

But, it has been his quirky practical joke of telling his daughter that a dealer who wants to sell something is waiting for her instead of informing her that Lomov has come with a marriage proposal that has caused the situation he curses.

  • Natalia is a shrew, argumentative and obstinate, insisting always that she is in the right.

For instance, she blames her father for Lomov's staggering out, yet she is the first to insult Lomov and argue with him about the meadows. Even after her father manages to shake Lomov into consciousness enough that he understands Natalia's show of affection, she reignites the argument about the two hunting dogs.

  • Lomov is a hypochondriac and a weak person.

When he cannot win the arguments with Natalia, he complains of palpitations of the heart, and staggers away. After Tschubukov convinces him to return, Lomov falls into a chair and faints from renewing the argument with Natalia. He complains of his heart and says he is dying,

LOMOV  Here--here--there--there--my heart has burst!  My shoulder is torn apart. Where is my shoulder? I'm dying! [He falls into a chair] The doctor! [Faints]

Even when Tschubukov tells Lomov that Natalia is "willing," Lomov cannot bring himself to propose.  He simply acquiesces to the situation, "Oh, yes, I understand!--My heart--sparks--I am happy."

All three characters, however, are similar in their assessment of marriage as a means of economic stability. Likewise, all the characters consider property and pride as much more important that romance; certainly, their self-interests override everything.