What is the style of Chekhov's writing in the play, A Marriage Proposal?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chekhov's fast-paced one-act play is a farce about aristocratic marriages. A cynic about love and marriage, Chekhov employs a far-fetched humorous situation and ridiculous stereotypes in this drama. The plot revolves around the intent of a landowner to finally marry his neighbor's daughter. When he first appears, the father worries that he has come to borrow money, but when Lomov asks for the hand of his daughter, the father, Tschubukov, a hypocrite, embraces and kisses Lomov, telling him, "I am completely dumbfounded with pleasure." Yet, ridiculously, and ironically as his words reveal his greedy anticipation of the joining of properties, he tells his daughter that there is a dealer come to buy something and she should talk with him. 

As Natalia Stepanovna talks with Ivan Lomov, their conversation takes a contentious turn when Lomov mentions that he has "inherited the estate."

NATALIA. Pardon the interruption. You said "my meadows"--but are they yours?

LOMOV. Yes, they belong to me.

NATALIA.  What nonsense! The meadows belong to us--not to you!

Of course, if she would accept Lomov's proposal, Natalia will have all the property, anyway. Instead, she is such a shrew that she escalates the argument, and they shout at each other; Tschubukov re-enters and joins the dispute.  A hypochondriac, Lumov complains that he is having a heart attack and staggers out. After hurling invectives at Lomov, the past-marrying age daughter hears her father say,

TSCHUBUKOV. And to think that this fool dares to make a proposal of marriage?....

NATALIA. What? A proposal of marriage?....Why didn't you tell me that before?...Bring him back! Bring him back!

Yet, even after Lomov is brought back, he and Natalia continue to argue, entwining Tschubukov in the debate over whose dog is superior until Lomov imagines that he is dying. Hysterically, the father recriminates himself, "Why didn't I shoot myself?" But Lomov comes to, and Tschubkov hastily interjects,

TSCHUBUKOV. She's willing! Well? Kiss each other and--the devil take you both!

Dizzily, Lomov agrees, but feels pain in his legs. The play ends with the father exclaiming with great irony, "Now the domestic joys have begun."

Despite the contentious conversations, Chekhov is able to use the shortcomings in his characters to produce a farce that is very funny while simultaneously exposing the foibles of human nature.