Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Alexander Serebrakov (ah-lehk-SAHN-dr seh-reh-brah-KOHF), a retired professor who takes up residence with his young wife at their small estate in the country. After many years of writing books about art, his life is deemed a failure. Success and fame have eluded him; he is a gout-ridden, whining, testy, and complaining old man incapable of generosity or kindness. Presumptuous and full of self-conceit, he is a trial to all those around him.
Helena Andreyevna (eh-LEH-nuh ahn-DRAY-ehv-nuh), the professor’s beautiful young wife. Disillusioned by her husband, whom she married in the belief that he was famous and learned, she spends her life in idleness and indolence, infecting those about her with her absence of direction and values. She holds a fascination for men, but in doting on her, they themselves are corrupted. She remains true to her husband but in the process destroys her own spirit.
Sonya Alexandrovna (SOH-nyuh ah-lehk-SAHN-drehv-nuh), the professor’s daughter by a previous marriage, an innocent, plain young woman hopelessly in love with the local physician, who does not return her love. She learns to endure her pain by helping others, by work,...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Uncle Vanya Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Sonya is Serebryakov’s daughter by his first marriage and Vanya’s niece. Hard-working and plain in appearance, Sonya is twenty-four and has been in love with Astrov for six years. When Yelena offers to ask Astrov about his feelings for Sonya, she wavers, saying, ‘‘Uncertainty is better. . . . After all, there is hope—’’ Like the others, Sonya confesses to deep unhappiness but is more pragmatic. It is Sonya who holds the family together. When Vanya complains of how heavy his burdens are, she says: ‘‘What can we do, we must live!’’ The play closes with her soliloquy about the value of hard work in this lifetime and rest and beauty in the next.
A twenty-seven-year-old beauty and charmer, Yelena is married to the already elderly professor Serebryakov. Like her namesake Helen of Troy, Yelena is a woman whose beauty stirs men to action though she herself suffers from inertia. She freely admits that she’s idle and bored, and she believes that any type of useful activity, such as nursing or teaching, is beyond her. Astrov jokes, ‘‘Both of you, he [Serebryakov] and you—infected us with your idleness.’’ Yelena admits that she married out of true feeling, but that she no longer loves her husband and is now very unhappy. She dismisses Vanya’s affections but is clearly attracted to Astrov. Directors disagree about Yelena’s character. Sometimes she is...
(The entire section is 1029 words.)