Originally from Moscow, the three sisters moved years before to a provincial town with their now dead father. Olga, the eldest, is a teacher in the local school; Masha is married to a man whom she once thought clever, but now realizes is foolish. Young Irina dreams of great things. All of them long to return to Moscow.
The sisters pin their hopes on their brother Andrey, but he falls under the spell of Natasha, a vulgar local girl. Masha, a woman of deep emotions, falls in love with the handsome Vershinin, the new battery commander of the local brigade. It becomes evident that they all are becoming increasingly trapped in this hated town.
Olga is promoted to the job of headmistress at the school and Irina gets a job in the telegraph office. Andrey loses all ambition and Natasha takes over the household, dominating everyone in the family and driving away old friends and servants. Although the sisters still dream of escape to Moscow, in their hearts they know that escape is impossible.
While many of the characters in the play are weak-willed or foolish, they remain sympathetic. Each character struggles desperately to cling to a dream, a vision, some remnant of beauty. Although Vershinin and Masha are separated by his neurotic wife and her ridiculous husband, their frustrated love is both poignant and beautiful. The sisters are generous, even in adversity; they believe in the importance of hope, even when there seems to be little...
(The entire section is 559 words.)