The Suitor and Papa By Anton Chekhov
The Suitor and Papa is written by the Russian playwright, Anton Chekhov. Chekhov uses wit and irony to add interest and humour to this story, which tells the tale of a charming lad who wishes to put off any real responsibility in life for as long as possible. Chekhov, whose greatest masterpieces are The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanda, uses familiar themes and morals in The Suitor and Papa. This short story is not one of Anton Chekhov’s most famous works, but it still reflects his mental sophistication, and exposes uncomfortable truths through expert storytelling.
The story is about a young man who enjoys the summer season in the countryside, spending his time visiting with a family and courting one of the family’s daughters. Over time, the young man’s charm has its effect, and the daughter is irrationally enthusiastic. Most of the locals, friends as well as the daughter’s father (and the daughter herself) believe that the young man Pyotr, will speak about marriage. However, their belief turns out to be a distant dream, as the carefree playboy has no desire to give up his freedom over an innocent summer fling.
The story develops as Pyotr Petrovitch Milkin is attending a party with his male friends in the summer season. All his friends ask him about his marriage. His friends tell him about the dinners- and suppers with the Kondrashkin family and singing of songs with their girls. He gives flowers to Nastya and walks with her. All these activities point to the marriage of Milkin with a girl of the Kondrashkins. Milkin is shocked to learn this and rushes to Kondrashikan‘s home to clear the doubts about his intentions.
The father of Nastya wants to hook Milkin at any cost and confronts him about his tight lipedness, asking him why he doesn’t ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Pyotr tries his best to run out of the situation, telling all manner of tales about himself that paint him as a drunkard, on trial for embezzlement, a runaway convict, a criminal and a lunatic. To his embarrassment Pyotr finds all his argument falling flat on Kondrashkin who avoids all the concerns as insignificant and wants the young man to marry Nastya.
At the end, Pyotr Petrovich Milkin feigns “insanity” and longs to fetch a certificate to prove he is insane, his would-be father-in-law tells him that he was not mad as a mad man did not argue so logically. Milkin rushes to his doctor friend to get a certificate to certify him as a mad man. After listening to Milkin, his friend Dr.Fituyev tells Milkin he would give him another certificate. One that says he is completely sane. The doctor reasons that any chap who doesn’t wish to wed is totally sane, and, therefore, Pyotr is in perfect mental health. The story concludes leaving Pyotr utterly disappointed and flustered to negotiate the situation that has emerged.
This story highlights the marriage problem of girls in Russian society. The parents are in a state of desperation to find matches for their girls. Marriage is a source of income, becoming rich and getting easy money and name for most of the Russian people. This is a story about a young man who wishes to put off any real responsibility in life for as long as possible but the father of the girl on the other side urges the boy to get married at any cost. This story has another important message to share: that marriage is a futile exercise, relationship and family have no value in European society but job and enjoyment get primary importance.
Character sketch of Pyotr Petrovich Milkin
Pyotr Petrovich Milkin is the main character of the. Pyotr seems to be a well-built young man. He is referred to as a wonderful lad by his would-be father-in-law Kondrashkin. He wears a hat but keeps it off the head most of the times. He mumbles and stutters while speaking Pyotr is a kind of young lad who believes in love and enjoyment as the only purpose of life. He throws parties and enjoys with his young unmarried friends. He is a non-serious person believing in trivial relations and amusement in life without taking any responsibility. Pyotr would love to take flowers to Nastya, the female character of the story, dance with her and go out with her on evenings and enjoy life to the maximum. Pyotr would compromise everywhere and tell irrational things full of deceit. He did not believe in marriage and could not tolerate the advances of Kondrashkin in this matter. In fact, he showed a false hurry in refusing the proposal and leaving the place immediately.
In spite of all his pretensions, Pyotr got deeply hooked in the net of Kondrashikan and finally wanted to feign madness to avoid the trap of marriage. His unreasonable responses, immature concerns present him as a confused and secretive kind of person whom nobody would trust. In the end, even Pyotr‘s friend was against his strange demand and he refused to certify him as a mad man.
Thus in the story, we see how, in spite of being the best story cooker, Pyotr Petrovich Milkin was unable to convince his friends, Kondrashkin and finally to his friend to help him to resolve the issue. This simply tells us that a non-serious attitude with irrational excuses can only confuse people but has no solution to the problem that Pyotr faced in the story.
Title of the Story
This is a farcical story in which the two characters — although there is a huge contrast in their roles — speak at the same degree of triviality and ridicule. The suitor who literary means a young man who courts a woman or seeks to marry her and Papa an idea that is known in the entire world as the biological father of a child.
The story finds aptly its plot woven around these two characters. The suitor who ironically turns out to be a playboy only has the purpose of life to enjoy and roam carefree. He finds a beautiful girl Nastya and acts as a perfect suitor but finds it insignificant and irrelevant to ask her hand in marriage. On the other hand, the story presents a father Kondrashkin who seems to be in an extra hurry to find a husband for his daughter. He leaves no stone unturned to hook the suitor Milkin in the plot and forces him to enter into the nuptial knot. The play runs like a “seek and find” game between the two characters thus giving a beautiful reason for the story being titled as The Suitor and Papa.