Chekhov's short story, The Betrothed

Essay by gagojanUniversity, Bachelor's October 2002

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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...