A Marriage Proposal

by Anton Chekov

Plot synopsis

Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov, a long-time neighbor of Stepan Stepanovitch Chubukov, has come to propose marriage to Chubukov’s 25-year-old daughter, Natalia. After he has asked and received joyful permission to marry Natalia, she is invited into the room, and he tries to convey to her the proposal. Lomov is a hypochondriac, and, while trying to make clear his reasons for being there, he gets into an argument with Natalia about The Oxen Meadows, a disputed piece of land between their respective properties, which results in him having “palpitations” and numbness in his leg. After her father notices they are arguing, he joins in, and then sends Ivan out of the house. While Stepan rants about Lomov, he expresses his shock that “this fool dares to make you (Natalia) a proposal of marriage!” This news she immediately starts into hysterics, begging for her father to bring him back. He does, and Natalia and Ivan get into a second big argument, this time about the superiority of their respective hunting dogs, Otkatai and Ugadi. Ivan collapses from his exhaustion over arguing, and father and daughter fear he’s dead. However, after a few minutes he regains consciousness, and Tschubukov all but forces him and his daughter to accept the proposal with a kiss. Immediately following the kiss, the couple get into another argument.

Further Understanding

The Play, “A Marriage Proposal”, shows how consideration of property and even our pride in property override other feelings and emotions like those generally associated with love and marriage. Even marriage is prompted by economic considerations, not by emotions.

Stepan Stepanovitch Tschubukov and Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov were neighbours in a village. Natalia Stepanovna was the daughter of Tschubukov. Lomov a man of thirty-five wanted to marry. He thought Natalia was good at farm work and she was not bad looking. So he came to the house of Tschubukov one evening to propose to Natalia. Naturally he was in his best clothes befitting the occasion of a marriage proposal. Tschubukov received him cordially in his reception room. Like every young man going to make a marriage proposal Lomov was also excited and nervous. After some nervous stammering, he told Tschubokov that he wanted Natalia’s hand in marriage. Tschubokov was very excited and happy at the proposal. He went out and sent Natalia into the room to meet the suitor. Natalia was not told of the purpose of Lomov. Natalia and Lomov began to talk.

Lomov was more nervous as he was facing the bride. He made a strong preface before coming to the proposal. He told Natalia about how the Lomovs and the Tschubukovs had been good neighbours on good terms for many years. In this context, he mentioned that his meadow touched the birch woods of Tschubukov. Natalia was surprised to hear that the meadows belonged to Lomov. She claimed that the plot of land belonged to them, the Tschubukovs. A bitter quarrel ensued. Lomov claimed it belonged to him and Natalia too claimed it to be theirs. Lomov forgot his original purpose. They called each other names, even though a little while ago they were full of good neighbourly feelings. Tschubukov came in and heard their quarrel. He too claimed that the meadow belonged to him. The quarrel grew even bitterer. They called each other names and began to expose the scandals of each others’ families. Lomov had a weak heart. He used to have palpitation in the heart. He was excited and he fainted. He rose and left the house. At this juncture, Tschubukov remarked that such a fool had dared to come seeking the hand of Natalia.

The moment she heard that he had come to propose to her, Natalia changed her tone. She asked her father to bring back Lomov. Her self interest overruled all other considerations like her loyalty to her family. Lomov came back. Natalia was all politeness. She even conceded that the meadow belonged to Lomov. After all, if they were married, the meadow would come to be hers only. Lomov informed that he would go hunting after the harvest. He was sorry that his dog Ugadi limped and he began to praise his dog. He thought that a hundred and twenty five roubles that he had paid for it was very cheap for such a good dog. Natalia, however, thought that it was a very high price because her father had paid only eighty-five roubles for their dog Otkatai, which was a better dog than Ugadi.

Lomov disagreed and asserted that Otkatai had a lower jaw and Ugadi was a far better dog than Otkatai. Once again their pride in their dogs led to another quarrel. Tschubukov came in and joined the quarrel. Lomov once again got excited and he fainted.

Tschubukov who knew the importance of getting his daughter married, at once joined the hands of Natalia and Lomov and declared that Natalia agreed to the match. Natalia too, declared that she was willing and Lomov declared that he too, was happy. Tschubukov shouted for champagne to celebrate the intended marriage.

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