HomeLiterature Study GuidesUncle VanyaAct 4 Saying Goodbye Summary

Uncle Vanya | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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Uncle Vanya | Act 4, Saying Goodbye | Summary

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Summary

Yelena and Astrov say goodbye while waiting for the horses to be brought out. Astrov tries to persuade Yelena to stay, and Yelena admits she was slightly attracted to him. Astrov then makes a speech about her strange existence. He notes how everyone has had to wait on her and her husband all summer long, and they have "infected" everyone with their "idleness." He has neglected his patients and the cattle grazing in his forests. He even accuses Yelena and her husband of bringing destruction wherever they go. They kiss and passionately embrace.

Vanya, Marya, Telegin, and Sonya then say goodbye to Serebryakov. Serebryakov remarks that he feels as if he's "relived [his] life in the last several hours" and "could compose a treatise for the edification of generations to come on how to live, really live life." Vanya informs him he will send Serebryakov the same amount of money every month as he did in the past, and "everything will be as it has always been." After final farewells are given, Serebryakov offers one final bit of advice, telling everyone, "You must get down to business ... time to roll up your sleeves and work!" Everyone goes to see Serebryakov and Yelena off except for Astrov and Vanya. Vanya is eager for them to leave, saying he is "worn out" and "the sooner I get to work, the better. To work, to work!"

Analysis

Astrov's goodbye speech to Yelena reveals his awareness that his feelings for Yelena are not really about love. Instead, he thinks she is a sort of harmful presence who brings about destruction rather than creation. He is attracted to her beauty but finds her character lacking, even toxic.

Serebryakov seems to be a changed man, acting as if his life passed before his eyes during Vanya's attempt to shoot him. He suddenly has an idea for a treatise that would be valuable to future generations, something he failed to produce during his career as a professor. Whether this is another bit of inspiration that will never bear fruition or the real thing is left unknown. His words of advice to everyone as he leaves are an example of situational irony. Serebryakov, who has been idle for the entire time he has been at the estate, urges everyone to "get down to business" and work. Is it possible his attitudes about work have changed and he, too, plans to be productive instead of idle? It is unlikely, as his comments about respecting everyone's "way of thinking" and "noble impulses" are condescending, revealing that he considers himself in some way superior to them and that any work he does engage in will be intellectual rather than physical.

Vanya's determination to get back to work reveals his strong desire to restore his way of life—not as it was when Serebryakov and Yelena lived with him, but before their arrival. They disrupted that life and brought about much angst and inner turmoil, so much so that he stopped working and committed the dramatic act of shooting at Serebryakov.

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