Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 346

*Ukraine

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*Ukraine. Russian province (now an independent country) that borders the north coast of the Black Sea. The relationship between Vanya and Professor Serebriakóv mirrors the relationship between provincial Ukraine and Russia. During Chekhov’s lifetime and well into the twentieth century, Russia exploited Ukraine’s rich agricultural and natural resources to feed and fuel other regions and provinces. Similarly, Professor Serebriakóv exploits the labor of Vanya and Sónya in order to maintain his life and career in Moscow.

Serebriakóv farm

Serebriakóv farm. Farm in Ukraine from which Serebriakóv derives the wealth on which he has built his social position in Moscow. Chekhov provides an increasingly intimate portrait of the Serebriakóv family and the forces that begin to erode the relationships between family members as each act penetrates deeper into the family’s history and deeper into the interior of the farm. A crisis between Vanya and the professor divides the household. In the play’s second act, Yelena says that there is “something terribly wrong going on in this house.” As tensions grow stronger among the characters, the farm becomes a microcosm of society in general. “You know perfectly well it’s not crime and criminals that are destroying the world,” Yelena explains to Vanya in the second act. “It’s petty little emotions like envy . . . that end up with good people hating one another.”

Garden

Garden. Garden adjacent to the farmhouse and just off the veranda. Gardens, and natural settings in general, are common elements in Chekhov’s drama as symbols of the order and beauty of the natural world, providing contrasts to the chaotic lives of his characters. The garden in the play’s first act sets the changing lives of the Serebriakóv family against the passive uniformity of nature and suggests an imbalance among family members. Sonya’s defense of Ástrov’s passion for reforestation emphasizes this imbalance when she explains that people who live in lush natural settings “spend less energy trying to combat nature, so the people themselves are kinder and gentler.”

Historical Context

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 668

In 1861, one year after Chekhov was born, Czar Alexander II abolished serfdom in Russia. Serfs were essentially slaves and were forced to work for their owners unless they could purchase their own freedom. Once peasants were no longer owned by others, they were not necessarily free because most of them had no possessions and were enslaved through indebtedness. In the 1860s, peasants constituted eighty percent of the population of Russia.

Once serfdom was abolished, Russia underwent a period of social unrest, characterized by student rebellion and protests by political radicals. In 1872, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital was translated into Russian and the Russian people were introduced to the basic tenets of communism. In 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated by terrorists. Alexander III assumed rule of the country, and what followed was a time of mass arrests and deportations. Alexander III ruled until his death in 1894, when Czar Nicholas assumed power.

Although Chekhov’s plays and stories aren’t overtly political, the writer was the grandson of a serf and throughout his lifetime he came into frequent contact with the peasants and other povertystricken members of Russian society because of his work as a physician. In 1890, Chekhov visited the prison of Sakhalin, to care for the sick and record the conditions of the prisoners. Despite an awareness of the plight of others, Chekhov was not among the university radicals or dissidents who pressed for reform through public demonstrations. The peasants may play prominent roles in his work, but Chekhov...

(The entire section contains 2674 words.)

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