Why does Smirnov say what he does about women in "The Bear"?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although we do not know much about Smirnov’s past, it is clear that he has been hurt in the past.  He refers to women as insensitive and says they cannot love.

Smirnov has trouble interacting with people.  He gets angry quickly, and he tends to get a little over-excited.  Although he forces his way in, he is actually reasonably polite at first.  When he tells her that her husband owed her money, and then she says she doesn’t have it, he complains that “people want me to keep calm!”

Smirnov comments that he never like talking to women.

What a way to reason! A man is in desperate need of his money, and she won't pay it because, you see, she is not disposed to attend to money matters!... That's real silly feminine logic. 

Yet in almost the same breath, Smirnov calls women “poetic creatures” not quite sarcastically, and comments that he can’t see a woman without breaking into a sweat.  Clearly, he is not the woman-hater he claims to be. He has been hurt in the past, and does not want to be hurt again.

It actually does not take him long to fall for her.  He likes her fiery disposition.  When Elena comments that she has “grown unaccustomed to the masculine voice.”

You're a rude, ill-bred man! Decent people don't talk to a woman like that!

Smirnov thinks to himself that he used to love, “passionately, madly, every blessed way” and “wasted half my wealth on tender feelings.”  Women, he says, ignore you as you are professing love.

Tell me truthfully, have you ever seen a woman who was sincere, faithful, and constant?

She disagrees, and he comments that she claims to lock herself in her room but she doesn’t forget to powder her nose.

They banter back and forth, quite humorously, and are yelling at each other, and she calls him a bear. 

Devil take it, if you want equality of rights you can have it.

She is so surprised she agrees to duel him, which surprises him.  Eventually Smirnov realizes that he has fallen in love with her dimples.  As the play ends, he kisses her, and he has apparently gotten over his fear of women.

In the end, they both learn that they can love again.