The Proposal Summary by Anton Chekhov

The Proposal Summary by Anton Chekhov


Life and Literature of the Author

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is a renowned figure in world literature. As a story-teller and dramatist, he has remained a formidable figure in the literary world of all times.

Anton Chekhov was a Russian. He was born on January 29, 1860, in Taganrog in Russia. After his successful academic he took up the profession of a medical man. As a practising physician, he proved his worth enough. 

But what makes Chekhov so famous is his literary career-his authorship as a story-teller and dramatist. He has, to his credit, a voluminous (PC) list, in the sphere of stories, particularly short stories. Among the best of his mature stories, mention may safely be made of the following:

A Dreary Story (1889), Ward No. Six (1892), My Life (1896) and the triology-The Man in a Case, Gooseberries and About Love (all in 1898) and The Lady with the Lap Dog (1899).

Anton Chekhov, of course, won no less reputation for his plays. Based on the reality of the nature of the Russian life of his time, he wrote a number of plays-both long and short. His first successful play was Ivanov (1887). His status as a dramatist, however, rests mainly on his four late plays :

The Seagull (1895), Uncle Vanya (1900), Three Sisters (1901) and The Cherry Orchard (1904).

He died in Germany 1904.

Together with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Chekhov stands out as a maker of Russian literature and its position in literature. The influence of his works is wide and impressive on posterity (OR 24). English literature owes immensely to him. He is found to have influenced a good many English men of letters, including Mougham, H. E. Bates, Katherine Mansfield, and many more. Even Bernard Shaw has declared unequivocally that reading Chekhov’s plays made him want to tear up his own plays.

About the Play

The source of Chekhov’s The Proposal is his own land and people. This is based on his experience of the rustic landowning aristocracy of his time and place. His characters (in the play) all belong to that type and their behaviour and attitude are all true to that type.

The Proposal, a one-act play, was originally written in the Russian language. But its success and popularity led to its conversion  to other languages, including English. The play was first performed in a Russian theater in 1890.

Central Idea of the Play

The Proposal is a one-act play from the celebrated Russian author of stories and plays. The play deals with three persons (all Russians of the late nineteenth century) a father, his daughter and a rich bachelor of the locality. The bachelor Ivan Lomov about thirty-five in age-comes to his old rich neighbour Stepan Chubukov with a proposal to marry his daughter Natalya, about twenty-five in age. Initially the situation is quite pleasant and prospective. The old father is glad to find a rich match for his unmarried grown up daughter and sends her to talk with the aspirant suitor.

Thereafter the sky changes. The happy marriage proposal remains unspoken and is left behind by some suddenly risen disputes. The amorous  talk of matrimony  is shaken aside by the rough exchanges of words and loud quarrels on petty issues.

The issues are about the ownership of a parcel of land  (Oxen Meadows) and the claim of superiority between two family dogs. The matter grows serious and the suitor Lomov even faints, much to the concern  of the father and the daughter.

Finally the proposal is taken up. The marriage is settled, though the dispute on the dogs remains unsettled.

The theme of the play is amusing though gently sarcastic. Chekhov seems to expose here the hollowness of love in a matrimonial matter to the rural land-owning community of his time. Selfish possessiveness  dominate and dictate them. Marriage seems here nothing but a social and/or economic necessity. Love has no place here. This satirical theme is subtly conveyed by Chekhov in his delightful, farcical oneact comedy.

Summary of the Play

When Ivan Lomov enters the house of Chubukov the elderly Stepan Chubukov assumes  that the welldressed young man has come to borrow money. Instead Chubukov is pleased when Lomov asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Chubukov bestows his blessing  from the core of his heart, declaring that he already loves him like his own son. The old man then leaves to fetch  his daughter, assuring the younger man that Natalya, his daughter will graciously ( accept the proposal.

While alone, Lomov delivers a soliloquy , explaining his high level of nervousness as well as a number of physical ailments  that have recently plagued his daily life. This monologue sets up everything that unfolds next.

room. Everything is going well when Natalya first enters the They discuss pleasantly about the weather and agriculture Lomov attempts to bring up the subject of marriage by first stating how he has known her family since childhood. As he touches upon his past, he mentions his family’s ownership of the Oxen Meadows . Natalya stops the conversation to clarify. She believes that her family has always owned the meadows and this disagreement  develops into a rustic  quarrel, This makes tempers flaring. Lomov’s heart begins to palpitate.

When the two yell (fe) at each other, Ivan Lomov feels dizzy and tries to claim himself down and change the subject back to matrimony. But he only gets immersed in the argument yet again. Natalya’s father joins the battle, siding with his daughter. He even angrily asks Ivan Lomov to leave at once.

As soon as Ivan is gone, Stepan Chubukov reveals to his daughter that the young man has planned to propose to Natalya. Shocked and apparently desperate to be married, Natalya presses her father to bring him back. But once Ivan Lomov has returned, she tries to bend the subject towards romance. However, instead of discussing marriage, they begin to argue over which of their dogs is the better hound. This seemingly innocuous  topic launches into yet another heated argument. Finally, Ivan’s heart cannot take it any more and he flops down  and faints. At that Stepan Chubukov and Natalya feel much gravely concerned. Fortunately, Ivan breaks out of his fainting spell and regains his senses enough for him to propose to Natalya. She accepts his proposal, but before the curtain falls, they return to their old argument regarding who owns the better dog.

In short, ‘The Proposal’ is a play full of delight and fun with a mildly sarcastic sling . This is a fine farce.


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