What are the comic effects in A Marriage Proposal?

The comic effects in Anton Chekhov's The Marriage Proposal include Chubukov's insincere terms of endearment, Lomov's hypochondria, the shouting matches that quickly distract the characters from the proposal, Natalya's agreement to the marriage, and the resumption of the argument at the end.

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Anton Chekhov's A Marriage Proposal is an hilarious little play filled with all kinds of comic effects. From the very beginning, for instance, Stepan Stepanovitch Chubukov (whose name even sounds funny) uses a series of over-the-top terms of endearment as he speaks to his neighbor, Ivan Vassilevitch Lomov. He calls Lomov everything from "my darling" to "my angel" to "my precious," but he really doesn't mean it. In fact, Chubukov is positive that Lomov has come to borrow money, and he is determined not to give him any.

Lomov stammers and sputters as he finally gets around to make his actual request. He wants to marry Chubukov's daughter, Natalya Stepanovna. Chubukov is thrilled, kisses Lomov, tells him he has always loved him as a son, and goes to get Natalya.

Meanwhile, Lomov is focusing completely on himself. He doesn't particularly love Natalya, but he feels it is high time he gets married, and he has all kinds of health issues he could really use some help with. Indeed, Lomov is something of a hypochondriac, and this will add further humor to the play as it moves along.

Pretty soon, Lomov and Natalya are chatting happily, but their tune quickly changes when they start talking about who actually owns Oxen Meadows. Natalya is certain her family does, and Lomov is positive that he himself does. Their discussion soon descends into a shouting match, with Lomov inserting plenty of comments about his heart and his sleeping foot in the process. Chubukov soon becomes involved, and all memory of Lomov's original purpose has departed as the trio bicker like children (with Chubukov hilariously still using his usual terms of endearment alongside some creative insults).

When Lomov finally stomps off (never having gotten around to proposing to Natalya), Chubukov tells his daughter what Lomov had actually come for. She becomes hysterical and orders her father to call Lomov back at once. The prospect of a proposal has driven all her indignation about Oxen Meadows straight out of her mind.

With Lomov firmly back in place and Natalya assuring him that the Oxen Meadows are certainly his, the two begin another conversation and quickly end up arguing about whose dog is better. Another shouting match, punctuated by Lomov's hypochondriac moaning, ensues. Lomov finally faints, and Natalya panics that he has died. When she finds out he hasn't and Lomov wakes up, they agree to marry, kiss, and immediately start arguing again. Chubukov calls for champagne.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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In his play A Marriage Proposal, Anton Chekhov creates humor by using numerous literary devices. The comic effects are achieved through plotting and characterization, as the intentions of Lomov are subverted by Tschubukov and his daughter Natalia. Dramatic irony has a central function, as the audience learns near the outset that Lomov’s real goals are different from those that he provides to the father. Throughout the play, the dialogue between characters reveals other differences between their ambitions as well as the strategies they are employing to achieve those ends. Chekhov also makes use of monologues and asides to have individual characters share information with the audience but not with each other.

As the play opens, Lomov seems to be a clever schemer who expects to achieve his goal of expanding his landholdings by marrying Natalia, the daughter of his neighbor Tschubukov. He expects that the father will agree to the match because of her age, which makes Lomov suspect that she would receive few, if any, future proposals. He also expects Natalia to passively accept her father’s decision. Along with the ironic discrepancy between Lomov’s true motives and his stated ones, as the plot advances, their spirited arguments show that Natalia’s personality is far from passive. By the end, it is also revealed that Tschubukov had his own goals, and Lomov’s assumption that he could outsmart his neighbor is unfounded.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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