Uncle Vanya (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction) - Essay

Anton Chekhov

Uncle Vanya (Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The central character is Ivan Voynitsky, or Uncle Vanya, who gradually comes to an awareness of the folly of his life’s ideals. Dedicated for many years to advancing the career of Professor Serebryakov, the husband of his dead sister, Uncle Vanya comes to realize that the professor is a fraud; that the years devoted to making the family estate produce extra income for his brother-in-law’s expenses in the city not only required the sacrifice of his own ambitions, but also stifled the hopes of Sonya, the professor’s daughter.

Uncle Vanya tries to find a release for the pain of lost illusion by seducing the old professor’s bored, young, beautiful, and equally disillusioned second wife, Yelena. She rejects his advances but is charmed by the attentions of Doctor Astrov, a friend of the family secretly loved by Sonya, who is too shy and resigned to express her love openly. Astrov, like the professor, is also somewhat of a crank; however, his enthusiasm for the cultivation of trees is a life-affirming ideal in contrast to the dead ideas of the old professor.

All this hopelessness and human waste is finally challenged by the crazed and absurd revolt of Uncle Vanya. When the professor decides that the estate should be sold and the money invested to raise more income for his city life, Uncle Vanya reacts in maddened horror and insists that the estate belonged originally to Sonya’s mother and must pass on to Sonya. Yelena tries to get her husband to apologize to Uncle Vanya, but the professor’s attempt to make amends is met by comic violence. Uncle Vanya shoots at him...

(The entire section is 651 words.)