Discuss the character of Popova in The Bear by Anton Chekhov



Popova is a young, romantic and youthful sentimental lady. Under one of her unrealistic romantic illusions, she decides to remain faithful, in a state of mourning, to her unfaithful husband that died seven months ago. She looks at the picture of her husband and vows:

"My love will die out with me, only when this poor heart will cease to beat." Luka, an old and practical man is trying to advise her:

"It isn't right, madam.... You're just destroying yourself."

While in a deep sentimental tone she rejects his advice:

"My life is already at an end. He is in his grave, and I have buried myself between four walls....We are both dead".

He says that she has not been going out. She has confined herself between the four walls of her house. He advises her to go about and get married because "you're young and beautiful, with roses in your cheek".

She rebukes him saying:

"when Nicolai Mihailovich died, life lost all its meaning for me. I vowed never to the end of my days to cease to wear mourning".

She seems impractical and childish when she tells Luka that:

"I know it's no secret to you that he was often unfair to me, cruel, and... and even unfaithful, but I shall be true till death, and show him how I can love".

She wishes to prove her unfaithful husband that she is faithful to him after his death. Here enters Smirnov to disturb her peace. She does her best to avoid him but to no avail. He enters her house threatening to stay forever unless he is paid off his debts which Popova's late husband died in debt to him. She has an exchange of very hot arguments with him. He makes fun of her mourning and faithfulness. She gets infuriated and abuses him. Smirnov challenges her for a duel and she agrees to fight a duel with him. She goes away to take the pistols from inside her house.

While she is away, Smirnov talks to himself: "She is a woman! That's the sort I can understand! A real woman! Not sour-faced jellybag, but fire, gunpowder, a rocket!" Smirnov falls in love with her and proposes her, and she accepts the proposal of marriage by embracing and kissing him instead of throwing him out her house; she proves another "bear" which is unable to hold back her basic instincts and human needs. This happens to her only because she is in complete seclusion and bottling up the very basics emotional human needs. Therefore, she falls an easy prey to Smirnov.


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