NCERT Class 10 English The Proposal

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The Proposal

‘The Proposal’ (originally titled ‘A Marriage Proposal’) is a one-act play, a farce, by the Russian short story writer and dramatist Anton Chekhov. It was written in 1888–89. The play is about the tendency of wealthy families to seek ties with other wealthy families, to increase their estates by encouraging marriages that make good economic sense.

Ivan Lomov, a long time wealthy neighbour of Stepan Chubukov, also wealthy, comes to seek the hand of Chubukov’s twenty-five-year-old daughter, Natalya. All three are quarrelsome people, and they quarrel over petty issues. The proposal is in danger of being forgotten amidst all this quarrelling. But economic good sense ensures that the proposal is made, after all — although the quarrelling perhaps continues! Characters

STEPAN STEPANOVITCH CHUBUKOV : a landowner

NATALYA STEPANOVNA :his daughter, twenty-five years old

IVAN VASSILEVITCH LOMOV :a neighbour of Chubukov, a large and hearty, but very suspicious, landowner A drawing-room in Chubukov‘s house. Lomov enters, wearing a dress-jacket and white gloves. Chubukov rises to meet him.

CHUBUKOV : My dear fellow, whom do I see! Ivan Vassilevitch! I am extremely glad! [Squeezes his hand] Now this is a surprise, my darling... How are you?

LOMOV : Thank you. And how may you be getting on?

CHUBUKOV : We just get along somehow, my angel, thanks to your prayers, and so on. Sit down, please do... Now, you know, you shouldn’t forget all about your neighbours, my darling. My dear fellow, why are you so formal in your get-up! Evening dress, gloves, and so on. Can you be going anywhere, my treasure?

LOMOV : No. I’ve come only to see you, honoured Stepan Stepanovitch.

CHUBUKOV : Then why are you in evening dress, my precious? As if you’re paying a New Year’s Eve visit!

LOMOV : Well, you see, it’s like this. [Takes his arm] I’ve come to you, honoured Stepan Stepanovitch, to trouble you with a request. Not once or twice have I already had the privilege of applying to you for help, and you have always, so to speak... I must ask your pardon, I am getting excited. I shall drink some water, honoured Stepan Stepanovitch.

CHUBUKOV : [aside] He’s come to borrow money. Shan’t give him any! [aloud] What is it, my beauty?

LOMOV : You see, Honoured Stepanitch... I beg pardon Stepan Honouritch.I mean, I’m awfully excited, as you will please notice... In short, you alone can help me, though I don’t deserve it, of course... and haven’t any right to count on your assistance...

CHUBUKOV : Oh, don’t go round and round it, darling! Spit it out! Well?

LOMOV : One moment... this very minute. The fact is I’ve come to ask the hand of your daughter, Natalya Stepanovna, in marriage

Think about the text

1. What does Chubukov at first suspect that Lomov has come for? Is he sincere when he later says “And I’ve always loved you, my angel, as if you were my own son”? Find reasons for your answer from the play.

2. Chubukov says of Natalya: “... as if she won’t consent! She’s in love; egad, she’s like a lovesick cat…” Would you agree? Find reasons for your answer.

3. (i) Find all the words and expressions in the play that the characters use to speak about each other, and the accusations and insults  they hurl at each other. (For example, Lomov in the end callsChubukov an intriguer; but earlier, Chubukov has himself called Lomov a “malicious, doublefaced intriguer.” Again, Lomov begins by describing Natalya as “an excellent housekeeper, not bad-looking, well-educated.”)

  (ii) Then think of five adjectives or adjectival expressions of your own to describe each character in the play.

  (iii) Can you now imagine what these characters will quarrel about next?


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