Utopian Human Weaknesses Cited in the Play ‘The Bear’ by Anton Chekhov

This post consists of two answers given by two G.C.E. (O/L) students. These answers will be helpful for the readers to analyse the answers of students and these two students have brought forward some brilliant points to ponder. The credit should go for them and the comment section is open for you to comment on their work which will be a great support for them to improve their writings.


In the drama, The Bear, Popova and Smirnov show human weaknesses. Cite with examples.

Answer by Siwrangi

It is obvious that the writer Anton Chekhov through the drama Bear shows human weaknesses using the characters Smirnov and Popova. Through the actions and reactions of the characters, some obvious common weaknesses of humans in conflict situations are unveiled in a humorous way.

The character Popova is going to destroy the rest of her live because of a dead person. She is determined to live her entire coming life without connecting to the society, dedicated her life for the sake of her late husband:

“…I shall be true till death, and show him how I can love. There, beyond the grave, he will see me as I was before his death…”

It shows an impractical attitude of some people through the character of Popova. She opts to be alone in a room till the end of her life. After the death of her husband, all the properties of him belonged to her and she is financially stable young woman. However, she is not going to use them or handle the wealth with care for her husband. Instead of being a responsible woman, she cries over her late husband and opts to lead a solitary life. Devoting to a name of a person in an impractical way is a weak response to life. Through this, writer may try to show how humans fail to make correct decision in their life like the character Popova.

Chekhov has shown certain human weaknesses through the character of Smirnov too. In the beginning of the play he asks for his debts from Popova without concerning her mentality.

“I don’t want the money the day after tomorrow, I want it to-day.”

Smirnov does not consult Popova to get his money. She says that she cannot pay the money at that time. Smirnov cares only about his problem and he does not concern Popova’s mentality nor the problem she faces at that time. As Smirnov wears the shoes of the society, he represents the less empathetic attitude of people at such times.

Anger is another weakness of the people in the society. Through the characters of Smirnov and Popova it is emphasized the shortcomings of anger. Popova calling Smirnov ‘bear’ and Smirnov’s reaction to Popova’s ‘state of mind’ both are outbursts of their weaknesses.

In the drama Popova calling Smirnov a ‘bear’ mainly because of her anger. She forgets that she too has a fault of not paying the money. On the other hand, Smirnov forgets the mentality of Popova because of his anger. He humiliates her emotions and devotion without caring her ‘state of mind’. People forgetting the situation they are in and the emotions of others are another common weakness among many in any society. Whole and whole, we can conclude that the writer through the characters of Smirnov and Popove shows the weaknesses of humans.


Answer of Anuththara

The play ‘The Bear’ is composed not only on the basis of social set up of feudal system and its values but also social criticism of the prevailing society. Even far today, the indulgence of the main characters of the play who represent the aristocratic society Popova and Smirnov are real reflections of the authentic human behaviours.

At the exposition of the play the audience is exposed to the dialogues of Popova and Luka. Popova is a beautiful widow with the black weeds who involves in mourning over her dead husband. Actually at the first sight, Popova appears truly as a faithful wife with fidelity.

“…and show him how I can love. There beyond the grave, he will see me as I was before his death…”

However, the true perspective is hidden behind what is shown to the audience. The truth is, she is actually following the social customs along the values of her questionable behaviour:

“…you will see, how I can love and forgive.”

This portrays the true behaviour of Popova under the influence of her state of mind. It is nothing but pretentious behaviour having the intentions of taking revenge of material life. The irony in such behaviour brings humour realizing the reality in humour.

Smirnov emerges in the play as a ‘bear’ unexpectedly asking for debt on oats; his entrance is forceful midst the protest of Luka. Though he introduces himself as a landowner, he owns nothing as he pawned everything into a bank. He tries to depend totally on Popova’s money where he appears as a poor creditor dealing with debtors. Absolutely it brings humour where he decides to stay at Popova’s house until he receives his money seeing Popova helpless being opportunistic.

The audience identifies Smirnov’s chauvinistic character concept of that the law creature. He insults the condemns and humiliates women using bawdy language in front of Popova. However, what irony here is he has had associations about twenty-one women as he tells.

“I’ve refused twelve women, and nine have refused me!”

With the development of the plot, Smirnov develops and attracts towards beautiful Popova at once. One should not bother about whether it is true love or not. Anyhow, he proposes Popova to marry him. If we look at the proposal critically, we could say that It is the opportunistic irony whereas Smirnov changes himself for his own benefits. So, furthermore, he will be able to maintain his social status as a land owner to maintain his class vanity.

It crystal clear that in the play ‘the Bear’ the characters Popova and Smirnov both show human weaknesses according to the prevailing society and their social status.    

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