Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 335
It has been suggested that Astrov’s initial conversation with the nurse acts as an overture to the play, hinting at the important issues that Vanya and others will later elaborate upon, just as a musical overture introduces certain melodic themes. How might Astrov’s speech be viewed as an overture? Also, discuss how Sonya’s concluding speech might be viewed as the play’s finale.
Research the lives of peasants in Russia in the late-nineteenth century. What are the similarities and differences between the enslavement of African Americans in the U. S. and serfdom in Russia? Examine Marina and Telegin in Uncle Vanya and consider what Chekhov might be saying about the various classes in Russian society.
The characters in Uncle Vanya often discuss work and idleness. For instance, Astrov, in parting from Yelena, says: ‘‘You infected us with your slothfulness. I have lazed away a whole month, while the people have grown sicker . . .’’ What is Chekhov saying about the value of honest work? Be sure to discuss each character’s attitude toward work, including the views set forth by Serebryakov and Maria Vasilyevna.
Chekhov was a practicing doctor, and doctors often appear in his plays. Analyze how Astrov’s profession makes him like—or unlike—the other characters in the play. Compare and contrast Astrov with the doctor characters in other Chekhov plays, such as Dorn in The Sea Gull or Tchebutykin in The Three Sisters.
Astrov is admired by Sonya and Yelena for his love of nature and his commitment to conservation. Sonya praises him for believing that ‘‘forests adorn the earth, that they teach a man to understand the beautiful and inspire him to lofty moods.’’ And Yelena describes Astrov’s passion for the woods this way: ‘‘When he plants a little tree, he is already imagining what it will be like in a thousand years, he is already dreaming of the happiness of mankind. Such people are rare, one must love them.’’ How does Astrov compare to ecologists of today?