Uncle Vanya

An Analysis of Symbolism in Uncle Vanya College

Anton Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya portrays complicated relationships between several characters with rather distinct personalities. Staged at the nineteenth century, Chekhov's drama of everyday life stresses conflict amongst his characters through language, set, sound effects, and costumes. Interestingly, many aspects mentioned above rely on powerful symbolism: it is a key factor that not only shapes Chekhov’s characters but also influences the rhythm of the play. To that end, this essay will analyze and interrogate one key use of symbolism in Uncle Vanya: the fourth act.

The introductory directions before the fourth act describe the intriguing furnishing of Voynitsky’s (Uncle Vanya’s) bedroom: “On the wall, a map of Africa, apparently of no use to anyone” (Chekhov, 595). But why is such a map of Africa in a Russian rural estate? Chekhov deliberately includes this surprising detail in the scene to demonstrate how tedious it is for Vanya to manage the estate. The map plays an important role as a symbol for Vanya’s wasted “no use to anyone” (Chekhov, 595) life, and the general futility of all the character’s lives.

In the play, Uncle Vanya has been managing the estate for the professor for over twenty-five years. He gave up his...

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