What is the significance of the title in the play The Bear?

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The title The Bear in the play is significant as it is a reference to the character Smirnov, by Popova. The term is used to describe Smirnov's crude and insensitive behavior, particularly in his interactions with women. The irony of the title lies in the fact that despite the conflict and heated exchanges, Popova and Smirnov eventually fall in love.

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The title The Bear comes straight from the play as a reference to Smirnov by Popova. Popova claimed that Smirnov was a crude man who did not know how to treat women.

POPOVA. You don't know how to behave before women!

SMIRNOV. No, I do know how to behave before women!

POPOVA. No, you don't! You're a rude, ill-bred man! Decent people don't talk to a woman like that!

Smirnov made his way into Popova’s home to collect a debt owed to him by Popova’s late husband. Popova, on the other hand, was mourning the loss of her husband and had limited her social interaction.

Popova informed Smirnov that she was unable to make the payment immediately, but promised to do so a day later, when her steward was around. Smirnov would hear none of it because he was also hard pressed to make payments to his own creditors the next day. The situation quickly degenerated into a heated exchange of words between the two.

Due to the conflict, Smirnov was unable to control himself and allowed his frustrations to get the best of him. He became sarcastic and made outright rude remarks.

SMIRNOV. What a business! How do you want me to talk to you? In French, or what? [Loses his temper and lisps] Madame, je vous prie.... How happy I am that you don't pay me.... Ah, pardon. I have disturbed you! Such lovely weather to-day! And how well you look in mourning! [Bows.]

POPOVA. That's silly and rude.

According to, Popova, Smirnov was behaving like a brute by refusing to understand or compromise with her situation. She believed he was insensitive and had no reason to interfere with the peace in her home. Popova’s last straw came when Smirnov challenged her to a gun duel. She not only insulted him by calling him bourbon but also called him a bear three times.

POPOVA. Do you think I'm afraid of you just because you have large fists and a bull's throat? Eh? You Bourbon!

SMIRNOV. We'll fight it out! I'm not going to be insulted by anybody, and I don't care if you are a woman, one of the "softer sex," indeed!

POPOVA. [Trying to interrupt him] Bear! Bear! Bear!

The title The Bear captured the height of the conflict which was also ironic because the two eventually fell in love.

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