What is the significance of the title "The Bear" by Anton Chekhov?

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In Chekhov's one-act comedy “The Bear ,” Elena Popova is mourning for her husband when Gregory Smirnov (the bear of the title) bursts in to collect a debt. He initially greets Elena with respect but becomes obstreperous when he finds that she cannot pay. When he begins to shout,...

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In Chekhov's one-act comedy “The Bear,” Elena Popova is mourning for her husband when Gregory Smirnov (the bear of the title) bursts in to collect a debt. He initially greets Elena with respect but becomes obstreperous when he finds that she cannot pay. When he begins to shout, Elena complains that he does not know how to behave in front of a lady and is rude and ill-bred. She orders him out of her house, calling him a boor, a coarse bear and a monster.

It is at this point that Smirnov demands she fight him if she is going to insult him, since this is what he would demand of a man. Such a battle would represent true equality between men and women:

SMIRNOV: We'll fight it out! I'm not going to be insulted by anybody, and I don't care if you are a woman, one of the "softer sex," indeed!
ELENA [Trying to interrupt]: Bear! Bear! Bear!
SMIRNOV: It's about time we got rid of the prejudice that only men need pay for their insults. Devil take it, if you want equality of rights you can have it. We're going to fight it out!

Smirnov is impressed by Elena’s spirit and rapidly falls in love with her, proposing in a civilized manner which shows he is not the bear she thought him, though she threatens to shoot him like one. She eventually succumbs to his advances and the plays ends with Elena’s servant, Luka rushing in with an ax accompanied by other servants with poles and pitchforks, only to find their mistress kissing the “bear” they have come to drive out of the house.

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