Social Context of The Good Doctor of Neil Simon

Good writers will always capture the experiences and events that characterize their immediate societies. Writers are the mirror of the society since they usually highlight the social, economic and political issues that distinguish their environment. It is the reason why literature is usually interpreted as reflection of the society. It acts as an illuminator of the core issues in the society. Writers do not only concern themselves with recording the various experiences that characterize human lives, but they are also determined to educate the society, as well as criticize bad traits in the society that they live in. The Good Doctor by Neil Simon is, therefore, a culmination of well-chosen stories that capture the social, economic and political realities that shaped Russia and the personal experiences of the playwright. The events highlighted in the play reflect real issues of the society in Russia.

Various issues usually influence a writer’s decision on what to capture in literary pieces. The thematic concerns that are highlighted emanate from the society. Society, therefore, provides the raw material, which, refined by the writers, transforms into their creative piece of art. It is evident that the play The Good Doctor is a progressive play as it captures various thematic concerns that resonate both with the experiences of the author and the life of Anton Chekhov in Russia. The collection of the short stories written by Chekhov, therefore, made the play The Good Doctor an embodiment of a variety of issues that were characteristic of countries in Europe, especially Russia, which is where the plot of the stories is set.


The play is a combination of comic and satirical approaches to social issues in the variety of short stories written by Anton Chekhov. It begins with an unnamed author telling his attentive audience several of his stories. However, the narrator suffers from an ailment while on the podium. The playwright managed to weave together stories from different backgrounds with various thematic concerns to present a compelling play that captures the social and historical issues in the mid 20th century.

Death is inevitable in society. Unfortunately, when death occurs, people are adversely affected by the loss of the loved ones. The play The Good Doctor captures the sorrow and pain caused by death. The story “Errand” gives a vivid description of the effects of death on the people. It is, therefore, important to note that the events in the play are greatly influenced by the sociological aspects that characterize society. The way the playwright reacts in the play to the death of his first wife after she suffers from cancer not only elicits a somber mood, but also makes the readers equally touched by the loss. The play also explores how people should learn to deal with misfortunes whenever they occur. The way the various characters in the play deal with death is a great inspiration. Although it is painful experience, human beings must learn to manage grief.

The playwright goes through painful experiences after his wife is diagnosed with cancer. Disease and death, therefore, are pertinent concepts that are prevalent in the play The Good Doctor. The bitter experiences that are highlighted in the play represent the encounter of the playwright, as well as other people in the communities, with terrible situations.

The theme of love and romance is quite conspicuous in the play The Good Doctor. It is interesting to note that after the passing of his wife, Simon marries for the second time during the production of the play. Thus, the play serves as an opportunity to rebuild the personal life of the playwright. The playwright’s love for his new wife is captured in Chekhov’s short story “The Play”.

The scene in the story “The Play” about an actress captures the romantic episodes of the playwright with Marsha, who is his new wife. It is evident that while reading out the lines of this scene, Simon is overwhelmed by the love of his new found lover. It is clear that the scene was written as a dedication to his wife. It is important to note that unlike in the other scenes in the play where the actress is a mere caricature, in this scene, she is a real human being who possesses hope and ambitions. The events that are depicted in the scene reflect the real life events in the world and how they tremendously influence the writing of the play.

The story “Too Late for Happiness” is greatly influenced by real life issues that affect people in the society. In their song, the singers ask whether there is still time for more love for the elderly characters in the scene. Aging is a delicate issue in society. People who are aged require constant love and affection for them to feel appreciated. The various scenes in the play are realistic because they deal with the issues that affect the character in their day-to-day encounters.

The emergence of the war and other political movement in Russia influenced greatly the creation of the various stories that are included in the play The Good Doctor. During the recurring war in Vietnam and Watergate, America found itself in a dilemma just the same way Russia was in the late 19th century. Russia also went through challenging encounters that not only shaped the political landscape of Russia, but affected many other countries in the world. The atmosphere of the revolution in Russia provided a good scenario that the writers used in order to describe the cultural and political environment. The writers like Chekhov spoke openly about the revolution and politics and depicted it in their literary pieces. It is important to acknowledge the idea that the social and economic policies that characterized the Russia during the 19th century influenced Chekhov to become a revolutionary writer.

 It is imperative to note that the theme of poverty that is prevalent in the play The Good Doctor is a mirror of the type of life Chekhov went through. His childhood was characterized by abject poverty and material deprivation. The poverty and the desire to get some money to support his poor family influenced Chekhov to begin to write for comedy magazines while still studying at the medical school. His love for the comedy would, therefore, be captured in some of his stories later on. This justifies the fact that the social and economic factors affected Chekhov in the writing of the short stories highlighted in the play The Good Doctor.

The various stories that were included in the play considerably capture the issues of material depravity. Poverty denies people opportunities to reach their target. Poverty can be seen in every society, although it varies in its degree. The play exposes various characters who fail to achieve their goals in life because of a poor background. However, it is important to highlight the way characters deal with poverty. Poverty should therefore not be used as an avenue to limit people in realizing their goals in life. Poverty should be used as an avenue to make progress in the societies people live in.

Unlike for other writers, the sources of Chekhov’s humor in his stories have their genesis in his honest personality. Chekhov always was an honest person. He believed in the idea that a man’s intelligence was to build the ability of the man to display honesty all the time.  He reiterated the idea that it was not right to cover one’s emptiness just to win the trust.

Chekhov wrote most of his work when Russia was experiencing volatile social, economic and political events. For any artist, and writers were not an exception, it was dangerous to directly criticize the current leadership through the creative literary works. To cushion him from victimization, he used satire and humor. People could laugh at the various social evils highlighted in Chekhov’s plays and short stories. The critical assessment by the attentive readers would show that the humor was used as mockery of the political and social vices that characterized Russia for a substantial period in the 19th century. One interesting aspect about Chekhov is that although he had friends who were politicians, he kept his views to himself.

It is clear that the play is laced with much humor. Humor in literature is used so expose the various social evils that are prevalent in the society. Society never lacks vices; just the same way the society never lacks virtues. The use of humor in the play is, therefore, a well-tailored initiative that is meant to compliment the virtues and, at the same time, condemn the various social evils prevalent in society.

The various stories included in the play The Good Doctor reflect the various problems that Russia as a country went through. Issues like corruption, the harsh economic environment that the peasants faced, the weaknesses of bureaucracy, as well as the hopelessness of the citizens, are clearly captured in the play. It is important to point that the humor that characterize such stories as “The Nincompoop” and “The Death of Government Clerk” originates from the social acrimony and disorder that was prevalent in Russia in the 19th century.

The wealthy landowners in Russia, as well as the wealthy political class, were responsible for mismanagement of the country of Russia for a long period. Democratic institutions and the government that would represent the people did not exist in Russia. The local police and the public servants were under the control of the Czar. There was fear of a revolution that would let the uneducated rise and champion for the disbandment of the upper level of society. Citizens in Russia were not only hopeless, but also disillusioned with the state of fairs in Russia. These are the core factors that influenced Chekhov in writing the various short stories that were included in the play The Good Doctor.

The Tartar war in the 13th century saw many people being displaced from their homes, and many more peasants being dead in Russia. The homeless peasants were forced to settle on the land of the rich landowners. The landowners misused the peasants by subjecting them to hard labor and other oppressive treatments. The slaves were bought and sold at will of the landowners. These devastating experiences of the peasants that were nearly turned into slaves and subjected to inhumane treatment are delineated in some of the stories written by Chekhov. This means that the events in the play were greatly influenced by the social context in which the author came from.

The emancipation manifesto of 1860 in Russia was a progressive idea that was adopted to relieve the slaves from the oppressive land owners and their slavery activities. The government was able to free the serfs and empower a representational government that was put in place. The Russian government reformed its ways, and the common citizens got more access to the outside world. The youths relocated to the cities to look for paid employment and to pursue work in the construction of the railway. These are the events that are also described by Chekhov in his short stories. It is undeniable that the peculiar way Chekhov captured the historical events in Russia is one of the main reasons that made his writings quite popular.

The realities of the people’s lives and their subsequent integration in the social context were appropriately captured by the author, showing the importance of social contexts and how they influenced the author’s writings. The choice of the various stories to include in the play was a strategic decision that would expose the modern readers the social context that the writer found themselves in and how tremendously it influenced his writings. The two authors Neil and Chekhov appreciated the ways art could be integrated into the society. Anyone who is interested in the history of Russia will really enjoy the play The Good Doctor. The play is quite relevant and inspiring in the way the author used facts together with fictitious characters.

It is undeniable that the play The Good Doctor is a product of reflection of various sociological, political and economic factors that affected the playwrights Neil and Chekhov, as well as of the realities that Russia went through in the 19th century. It is evident that Chekhov in the various short stories that have been included in the play The Good Doctor appropriately captured factors that were of great importance in Russia in the 19th century. The play managed to highlight how the social context can influence a writer to describe issues that are prevalent in their immediate society. The play The Good Doctor, although it is fictional, gives factual information about various economic and political issues in Russia. Through the various scenes that are depicted in short stories, the play exposes issues like poverty, disillusionment and romance, conflicts within a family set up, as well as poor governance. It is clear that the issues that have been raised in the play are a reflection of the day-to-day encounters. Therefore, one can say that the content of the play is socially contextualized.

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