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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Themes for this one act play by Chekhov that is a comedy or a satire, include making fun of romance and marriage. Chekhov examines the true nature of marriage, an institution of necessity in his time that did not necessarily need to include romance and love.  

The idea that marriage is an arrangement between two people, rather business like, without romance or love, which Chekhov illustrates by having the two people involved in the proposal bicker and argue until they agree to get married at the end where you know they will continue to bicker and argue.

In Chekhov's time marriage would have been considered an economic necessity, more for financial security than love.  

This fast-paced one act play was very popular when performed in the late 19th century.  Chekhov enjoys making fun of such a fundamental component of life, marriage.  He did not take romance and marriage seriously, this is illustrated in other works by the author as well.

 In "The Proposal", he utilizes the relationship of two wealthy men to create a scenario where a daughter, Natalya Stepanovna, who is 25, and beyond her prime for marriage in the period and a bit of a shrew, is approached by her neighbor, seeking her hand in marriage.  But the three people are so stubborn that they can't stop arguing long enough for Lomov to actually propose.  And you have to wonder why he would want to propose to Natalya, who screams at him and insults him.  

Lomov is a bit old to be unmarried as well, and he is a hypochondriac, someone who thinks they are always sick. Ivan Vassilevitch Lomov, fumbles his proposal, trying to honor Natalya with kind words, but instead makes her angry and an argument starts that comes to include her father. The argument gets so heated that Lomov leaves after being totally insulted by the two, without proposing.

When Natalya finds out the Lomov had come to propose she wants him to come back to the house, but more arguing takes place when he enters, until finally the father instructs the two:

"CHUBUKOV: Hurry up and get married and--well, to the devil with you! She's willing! [He puts LOMOV'S hand into his daughter's] She's willing and all that. I give you my blessing and so on. Only leave me in peace!" (Chekhov) 

 You can only imagine how funny this play was to audiences of the late 19th century especially with the father wanting to get his daughter married off, but unable to resist arguing with her potential husband.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial