Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote The Bedbug as a satire on the Soviet society in the late 1920’s. This is evident from many aspects of the play and from his biography. Mayakovsky was a staunch supporter of the communist system throughout his life. During the revolution, he willingly lent his services to the revolutionary cause, “setting my heel on the throat of my own song,” as he said in one of his poems. He was displeased with the New Economic Policy established by Vladimir Ilich Lenin in 1921 to bring Russia back from the ruins of the revolution and civil war. He was even more displeased with the First Five-Year Plan, instituted in 1928 by Joseph Stalin after the country had recovered economically. The worst aspect of that plan, according to Mayakovsky, was the establishment of a huge army of bureaucrats, who were always a thorn in his side. It should be kept in mind that when the play premiered in Moscow on February 13, 1929, most of the audience consisted of exactly the kind of bureaucrats Mayakovsky satirized. The official reaction to the play was highly critical, and the author was accused of being against the state. Had he not committed suicide on April 14, 1930—caused in part by the “failure” of The Bedbug and other works—many believe that he might have become a victim of the purges.
The main source of his disillusionment and bitterness was his fear that the proletariat, for whose sake the revolution was fought, was being betrayed. The betrayal is embodied in the characters of Ivan Prisypkin and Elzevir Davidovna. Both belong to the working class, but during the New Economic Policy they want to join the more affluent society that was created by the freer economic policies. The couple pretends to belong still to the workers’ union, which is Mayakovsky’s way of criticizing the...
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