Treplyov is an aspiring writer in the new form of plays that defy the entertainments commonly found in the Russian theaters. He is constantly shifting around in his efforts to be recognized as a serious artist and writer. He seems equally desperate to pull his mother's attention away from Trigorin and to get Nina to love him. He recklessly kills a seagull, attempts suicide, challenges Trigorin to a duel, and at the end of the play commits suicide.
Arkadina maintains a close watch on both her son and her writer-lover to keep them attached to her by the purse strings. She is particularly obsessed with appearing as young as possible for her adoring public.
Nina is attracted to Trigorin and the glamorous life of the theater, which her parents vainly try to keep her from joining. She does not return Treplyov's love, even when he gives her a dead seagull. Nina is in revolt against the boredom of her life in the country and thinks that if she had a chance to become an actress, her life would be endlessly exciting. She does manage to leave with Trigorin's promise to meet her in Moscow, but her new life isn't what she expected. Nina's life in the theater leaves her in poor health. She has lost a child and been abandoned by Trigorin.
Bored with his life as a moderately successful writer, Trigorin is not much older than Arkadina's son, Treplyov. His main passion is fishing at the lake, and he is determined to enjoy himself at it. Even so, he takes some time to "perform" as the famous artist everyone seems to believe he must be. He is attracted to Nina, but remains firmly in Arkadina's sphere of influence. He has absolutely no intention of fighting with the impulsive Treplyov.