"Uncle Vanya" is a drama with the subtitle "Scenes from Country Life in Four Acts," which hints at the description of provincial events and the fate of the main characters.
Although the main characters are intelligent and educated individuals from a higher Russian class,
they are no different from ordinary people when it comes to the misfortunes of life and missed opportunities to make better choices and achieve greater success.
This drama takes place in just one day and night and doesn't have much action; it mostly focuses on depicting internal states and sufferings.
The Russian province and the remote village in which they are located further amplify the inner unhappiness of the main characters
but also serve as a frequent excuse for their wasted life opportunities.
All the characters are passive and pessimistic; they complain and claim that they could have achieved more and done better in life,
but they still hesitate to make any changes for the better in the remainder of their lives.
FULL BOOK SUMMARY
- Professor Aleksandr Vladimirovich Serebryakov and his wife Yelena Andreevna come to live in retirement in a rural summer house somewhere in the province of Russia.
Yelena is the professor's second wife, she has extraordinary beauty and is only twenty-seven years old.
- Professor Serebryakov has a daughter from his first marriage, a girl named Sofya Alexandrovna Sonya.
- Ivan Petrovich Voynitsky was the brother of the professor's first wife, and Sonya calls him Uncle Vanya.
- Sonya called Doctor Astrov because her father Serebryakov complained of rheumatism pain. Sonya had her own torment, she was in love with Doctor Astrov but couldn't admit it to him.
- Doctor Astrov's torment was that he had been working hard in the province for more than ten years, associating with eccentrics and oddballs, and he himself had become like them.
His life had become only laborious and provincial.
The only thing he still cared about was the maintenance of the surrounding forests and preventing ruthless logging that was destroying their beauty and threatening their future existence.
- Voynitsky's (Uncle Vanya's) torment was that he had fallen in love with the beautiful professor's wife, Yelena Andreevna.
Since she moved in, he had changed a lot, started drinking, neglected the estate's work, and became bitter and malicious.
He confessed his love to Yelena, but she rejected him because she was faithful to her husband.
Voynitsky regrets his youth and the days when he could have pursued a career in science and married Yelena instead of becoming a professor.
However, Sonya is the only one in the house who understands and sympathizes with him.
- Professor Serebryakov had trouble with old age. He knew that as an old man, he was a burden to everyone around him because he was of no use.
He regrets the days before retirement when his scientific word was listened to and respected among colleagues.
He loved attention and fame, but now he only read about it in others who replaced him in the province.
- Yelena Andreevna was troubled by the fact that everyone believed she married the much older professor for her own benefit.
She felt useless herself. She believed in the marriage and remained faithful, but her husband accused her of being bothered by his old age.
On the other hand, even though she was loyal to her husband, she admitted that she enjoyed the admiration of younger men, although she always rejected them.
- Sonya indirectly asked Doctor Astrov if he would accept the love of a girl like her if she appeared. The doctor replied that there was no place in his soul for new love towards anyone.
He only admitted that he could still be captivated by a woman's physical beauty, as beautiful as Yelena Andreevna, but that wouldn't be true love either.
- Since their arrival at the rural estate, Sonya hadn't spoken to Yelena Andreevna.
On the same evening, they reconcile and become close. Sonya confesses to Yelena that she loves Doctor Astrov.
Yelena promises to talk to the doctor about Sonya and suggest that they get married.
- When Yelena Andreevna slowly began a conversation with Astrov about Sonya's suffering and inquired about his feelings, he misunderstood it, thinking she wanted him.
He confesses to her that he has come only for her in the past few days. He embraces her and asks to start meeting in secret as lovers.
At that moment, Voynitsky enters the room and sees them embracing.
Yelena tries to explain to Voynitsky that there is nothing between her and Astrov and that she wants to leave the village immediately.
- Later, Professor Serebryakov requested that everyone gather in the house, and then he announced that he wanted to sell the estate and move to the city with his wife.
This angered Voynitsky, who had worked for the estate his whole life. He sent all the income to Serebryakov and kept almost nothing for himself.
Now Serebryakov wanted to leave him with nothing.
- Voynitsky accuses Serebryakov of ruining his life and declares him his greatest enemy. Soon, in their mutual quarrel, Voynitsky fires two shots at Serebryakov but misses.
- The next day, Professor Serebryakov and his wife Yelena leave the estate to live in Kharkov.
Before leaving, he and Voynitsky reconcile and hug each other. After them, Doctor Astrov leaves without paying attention to Sonya, who loves him.
- In the end, Sonya comforts Uncle Vanya.
The two of them return to neglected work on the estate, to immerse themselves again in labor and monotonous life until death, expecting a reward for a virtuous life in heaven, which Sonya believed in.