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Keywords: Chekhov, comedy, nobility, peasantry, social question.
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Theuriau F.-G. The Social Question in “The Proposal” by Anton Chékhov. Studia Litterarum, 2019, vol. 4, no 3, pp. 226–239. (In French)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2019-4-3-226-239

Author: Frédéric-Gaël Theuriau
Information about the author:

Frédéric-Gaël Theuriau, PhD in French language and literature at the University of Tours, professor, researcher, literary critic, essayist, president of the Centre for Advanced Studies of Literature, Tours, France; 13 allée de la Fauvette 37100 Tours, France.

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Received: February 20, 2019
Published: September 25, 2019
Issue: 2019 Vol. 4, №3
Department: Russian Literature
Pages: 226-239
DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2019-4-3-226-239
UDK: 821.161.1
BBK: 83.3(2Рос=Рус)52

Abstract

The article focuses on social and economic connotations of Chekhov’s The Proposal placing them against the context of the post-reform 19th century Russia. It examines the aspects of social and economic life of peasants who after the 1861 Emancipation Manifesto, were forced to become wage workers, and later urban proletariat because the landowners had maintained their land property. However, aristocracy, too, had to adapt to the new social and economic conditions; the main class of the Russian society was undergoing existential crisis. The article discusses how contractual relations among gentry, owners of small or medium-size estates, effected their living conditions and became fateful for the slowly fading class. Landowners’ struggle for survival in harsh social conditions is the key to the understanding of the conflict in Checkov’s play, polysemantic nature of the “proposal,” and lyrical humor of the “social comedy”. The essay argues that the conflict described in the play stems from a verbal agreement on the land ownership between the characters’ ancestors. The play is farcical because the dispute over the land has no rational or documentary grounds but bears on the idea of appropriation.

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