The Three Sisters Themes
by Anton Chekhov

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The Three Sisters Themes

(Drama for Students)

Alienation and Loneliness
Despite the fact that they have been there for over ten years and that their house is full of visitors, the Prozorov sisters feel lonely in the town where they live. For one thing, they are better educated than the people around them, which isolates them intellectually. Even though Vershinin tells them that he doubts there could even be a town "so boring and so dismal that it doesn't need intelligent, cultivated people," it is clear that they do not share his optimistic viewpoint and his ability to look to the future. Their friends in town are, for the most part, from the military, who are posted there temporarily and are inevitably going to move on, as they actually do in the end. Andrei shuts himself in his room with his violin and Olga removes herself from company, complaining that she has headaches. Even the engagement between Irina and Tuzenbach, which she enters into with reluctance because she feels the need to be more involved, ends with abrupt violence, ruining her chance to break through the wall of alienation that has surrounded her family since their father's death. Their hope that life in Moscow would make much difference by putting them among their own type of people is cast into doubt by Vershinin, who has just come from Moscow and recalls being lonely there.

Love and Passion
This play is a net of interwoven romances, all of them presenting differing degrees of sincerity and passion. Each character gives readers a different view of love. Andrei's love is that of the hopelessly exploited, while Natasha acts as the exploiter to him and as a martyr to her children. Masha and Vershinin are sincerely happy with each other, escaping confining marriages, while Kulygin, though unimaginative, displays a pure and selfless love by comforting his wife when she is upset over losing her lover. He confides also to Olga that he should have married her, not Masha, indicating that he is bound to Masha by devotion. Irina has an open and jocular relationship with Chebutykin, who dotes on her, even though a relationship between them is out of the question because of their age difference; Chebutykin also keeps alive his memory of their mother. Tuzenbach is content with his own love for Irina, even though he knows that she does not love him, while Solyony, who is perhaps incapable of love, patterns his life on the romantic figure of a poet. None of these relationships ends up happily, although there is an admirable nobility to the way that all of these characters hop on to their elusive passions.

Meaning of Life
There is a lack of meaning in their lives at the core of the misery felt by these three sisters. And the other characters in this play reflect the various attitudes that the sisters attach to the meaning of life. Olga spends her time trying to recapture the past through memory, especially by recalling her mother and father in detail—it is not surprising that she ends up as a teacher, dealing in established ideas and living in an apartment with Anfisa, who functions as a living relic of her childhood. Masha, who once was artistic, has fallen into despair and...

(The entire section is 827 words.)