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Uncle Vanya | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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Uncle Vanya | Act 3, A Declaration of Love | Summary

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Summary

Astrov meets with Yelena and shows her his maps of forested areas in Russia. He has charted both the forest cover and animal life of the area over 50 years. Astrov considers the great loss of animal life and forest cover over the years to be harmful to civilization. He could accept the loss if the "precious forests were being destroyed to make way for" roads, schools, or something that would make people "richer, better educated, healthier." The decimated forests, however, are now disease-infested swamps. He understands the short-sighted destruction, as "the common man cannot rise above because he is cold, hungry, and sick" and unable to "think about tomorrow."

Yelena changes the subject for her own sake. She elicits Astrov's acknowledgment that he does not like Sonya "as a woman." Astrov thinks Yelena has an ulterior motive in asking him about another woman and she is concealing her own interest in him. He confesses she is the reason he's been visiting daily. He calls her "my sweet little fox" and a "beautiful, fluffy little minx." He urges her to "devour" him, kisses her hands, and grabs her by the waist. Vanya, with his bouquet for Yelena, enters and sees Yelena trying to get out of Astrov's embrace. Astrov expresses his feelings by describing how "the air is fresher" and the weather is looking up, even though it initially looked like rain. Yelena declares she must leave the estate that day. Sonya, Serebryakov, Marina, and Telegin enter. Sonya pulls Yelena aside and finds out that Astrov will not be visiting the estate again.

Analysis

Vanya expresses his love for Yelena. Sonya loves Astrov. Astrov tells Yelena he loves her. And Yelena is attracted to Astrov but married to Serebryakov. Of all of these romantic feelings, only Sonya's is based on a genuine interest in the other person. Astrov and Vanya are more infatuated with Yelena's beauty and youth than they are with her personality. They desire her for her ability to stir up their emotions and make them feel alive and young again.

Astrov is undeterred by Yelena's refusal of his physical advances, just as Vanya was. Yet there is an undercurrent of attraction between Yelena and Astrov. When Astrov expresses his feelings, though, Yelena over-reacts and decides she must leave the house that very day. Her own attraction to Astrov makes it too difficult to be in close proximity to him. She tells Sonya it would be easier for her if Astrov stopped visiting, and, likewise, it is too tense for Yelena to be on the estate where he might visit. It is not that she loves Astrov, but he tempts her because she considers him different from and better than the other dull people who surround her.

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