On Irina’s name-day, her friends and family call to wish her happiness. It is exactly one year since the death of her father, who was sent from Moscow eleven years before to this provincial town at the head of a brigade. Irina and her sister Olga long to go back to Moscow, and Masha would like to go, too, except that she married Kuligin, whom she once thought the cleverest of men. They all pin their hopes on their brother Andrey now, who is studying to become a professor.
An old army doctor, Tchebutykin, brings Irina a samovar because he loved her mother. Masha’s husband gives her a copy of the history of the high school in which he teaches; he says he wrote it when he had nothing better to do. When Irina tells him that he already gave her a copy for Easter, he merrily hands it over to one of the army men who is calling. Tusenbach and Solyony quarrel half-heartedly because Tusenbach and Irina decided that what they need for happiness is work. Tusenbach never did anything but go to cadet school, and Irina’s father prepared his children only in languages. Both have a desire to labor hard at something.
When Vershinin, the new battery commander, comes to call, he reminds the girls that he lived on the same street with them in Moscow. He praises their town, but they say they would rather go to Moscow. They believe that they are oppressed with an education that is useless in a dull provincial town. Vershinin thinks that for every intelligent person then living, there will be many more later on, and that the whole earth will be unimaginably beautiful two or three hundred years hence. He thinks it might be interesting to relive one’s life to see if one can improve on the first version.
Natasha comes in while they are still sitting at the dinner table. Olga criticizes her dress, and the men begin to tease her about an engagement. Andrey, who cannot stand having her teased, follows her out of the room and begs her to marry him. She accepts.
After their marriage, Andrey loses any ambition he ever had to become a professor; he spends much of his time gambling, trying to forget how ill-bred, rude, and selfish Natasha is. Irina, meanwhile, takes a job in the telegraph office, and Olga teaches in the high school. Tired when they come home at night, they let Natasha run the house as she pleases, even to moving Irina out of her own bedroom so that Natasha and Andrey’s baby can have it.
Vershinin falls in love with Masha, though he feels bound to his neurotic wife because of his two daughters. Kuligin realizes what is going on but cheerfully hopes Masha still loves him. Tusenbach, afraid that life will always be difficult, decides to give up his commission and seek happiness in a workingman’s life. Vershinin is convinced that, by living, working, and struggling, people can create a...
(The entire section is 1158 words.)