Chekhov's Short Story, The Betrothed Essay

1358 words - 5 pages

Chekhov's short story, The Betrothed, is about a young woman who leaves home days before her wedding in search for a different life. The life of this heroin represents a larger liberation of women of the nineteenth century. To fully understand the evolution of women within Russian literature, it is necessary to compare The Betrothed to literature of the earlier part of the century. Karamzin's Poor Liza also illustrates the fate of a young woman and if put side by side with The Betrothed, will trace the liberation of women of that time. This paper will focus on the opportunities given to women towards the end of the nineteenth century as can be observed in Chekhov's "The Betrothed" in comparison to Karamzin's "Poor Liza".The title Karamzin uses for his story, "Poor Liza", creates right away an image of a woman helpless and dependent. Liza does, indeed, live up to this image. She is a very fragile woman of an excessively emotional nature, who is very vulnerable and easily hurt. That is the protocol for most, if not all, women throughout history and leading up to the early 19th century Russia. In those times a woman's role was defined by her status and for Liza there is no other prospect than marriage. She isn't posed with the question of what to do with her life, whether to get married or get an education, for her that conflict does not exist. As Liza meets Erast, her calm and nonchalant life takes a different focus, and she becomes consumed with her feelings for him and devotes herself to that relationship completely. She says to Erast, "when you press me to your heart, and glance at me with your tender eyes, oh! then I feel so good, so good, that I forget myself, I forget everything except-Erast!" (61) It is very easy for a woman of that time to loose herself because she doesn't live for herself, or for personal happiness. She lives for her family as a child, and, later in life, for her husband and children. So it is no surprise that Liza invests all her happiness and future in Erast, and when things don't work out, she has nothing to fall back on, no life to call her own. "As for Liza, having given herself to him completely, she lived and breathed only in him; in everything, like a lamb, she submitted to his will and she supposed that her own happiness was in his pleasure." (63) There is a total absence of individuality and character to women. They leech on to a position or a person and that gives meaning to their lives. A woman's sense of herself doesn't exist and she only sees herself in the context of others. When Erast informs Liza that he is going into the service, she says, "Oh why is it that I do not know how to read and write! You would inform me about everything that happens to you and I would write to you about my tears!" (64) This quote shows that women did not have the opportunity to be educated and also reveals the degree of Liza's attachment to Erast. When Liza decides to physically give herself to him, she, in a sense, becomes his...

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