How is Toby significant and how does he symbolize the shifting emotions of Mrs. Popova in Anton Chekov's one-act play, "The Bear?"

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Anton Chekov's play, "The Bear," Toby is a horse. Toby is significant because he symbolizes all of the most wonderful memories Elena Ivanovna Popova has for her not-so-excellent dead husband. It can be said that he sat a horse well, but that he was a terrible, abusive, philandering husband.

Popova instructs Luka to give the horse extra oats out of her commitment to remain faithful to her faithless husband until she dies. By doing so it seems she is trying to prove herself worthy of his love while he is dead, as she could not prove to him in life.


He was so fond of Toby! He always used to ride on him to the Korchagins and Vlasovs. How well he could ride! What grace there was in his figure when he pulled at the reins with all his strength!

When she finally falls in love with Smirnov, Popova instructs Luka not to give the horse extra oats; her feelings have changed. She does not plan to waste her life mourning for a man who treated her so shabbily. While the extra oats earlier were offered out of respect for the memory of her dead spouse, Nicolai Mihailovitch, her decision to hold back those extra oats from the horse indicates that she has let the past go. While Toby earlier seems synonymous of the memory of her husband, Toby is now simply a reminder of what a louse she was married to. So, no extra oats for Toby.