Uncle Vanya

Uncle Vanya Literary Elements





Setting and Context

Russian country estate; late 18th / early 19th century

Narrator and Point of View

As it is a play, it features character dialogue and stage directions.

Tone and Mood

Tone: calm, droll, melancholy, indifferent, and understated

Mood: moody, pessimistic, indifferent, and mellow

Protagonist and Antagonist

The main protagonist is Uncle Vanya; the main antagonist is Serebryakov.

Major Conflict

There is not one simple, unifying conflict in this almost plotless play. Some examples are: will Vanya find meaning in life? Will Sonya secure Astrov's love? Will Helen and Serebryakov destroy everything?


Vanya shoots Sererbryakov and almost kills him.


At the beginning of the play, the stage directions indicate that Vanya is envious of Serebryakov's success, foreshadowing the inevitable conflict between them.




-The stage direction alludes to Don Juan when he compares him to a character. Don Juan is a famous Spanish libertine—a philanderer who skirts the law
-Casanova (123), the famous Italian adventurer and lothario
-Alexander Ostrovsky, famous Russian playwright (126)
-Schopenhauer, Russian philosopher who contended the world is not a rational place (155)
-Dostoevsky, Russian author of 'The Brothers Karamazov' and 'Crime and Punishment' (155)


See separate Imagery section.




The erosion of the Russian landscape parallels in the erosion of Russian character.


-Nature is personified in the text. It is portrayed as a force that helps people, provides the necessities of life and resources such as water, coal, fuel and wood, protects people, and gives them the opportunity to build a good future for their children.
-Marina complains, "the samovar's kept on boil all morning waiting his pleasure" (121)

Use of Dramatic Devices

-Astrov gives a MONOLOGUE about Russia's forests
-There are elements of COMEDY and TRAGEDY
-Chekov's STYLE is notable for its plotless nature
-The FALLING ACTION takes place after Vanya tries to shoot Serebryakov: Serebryakov and Helen leave, everyone says goodbye, and Sonya comforts Vanya
-Vanya uses HYPERBOLE when he claims that Serebryakov prevented him from becoming a Dostoevsky