by Anton Chekhov
Uncle Vanya Passivity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Line)
MARIYA VASILYEVNA: [to her son] You're just blaming your former beliefs for something… But they're not to blame, you are. You forget that beliefs alone are nothing, a dead letter… What you needed was action. (1.229-32)
Mariya doesn't appear much in the play, but when she is allowed to speak, she lays the smack down. Speaking to her son, Vanya, she tells it like it is: that he had the chance to change his life, if he had taken action, but he didn't. In other words, you made your bed, now lie in it.
VOYNITSKY: If you could see your face, your movements… What indolence you have towards life! Ah, what indolence! (1.343-44)
Speaking to Yelena, Vanya picks on her "indolence," which is another word for laziness and passivity. According to Vanya, Yelena doesn't take any action, but rather has a passive attitude toward life. She doesn't make anything happen but just lets it happen to her instead.
SONYA: [shrugging her shoulders] There's plenty to do. You just need to want to.
YELENA ANDREYEVNA: For instance?
SONYA: Help run the estate, teach, treat the sick. Is that not enough? When Papa and you weren't here, Uncle Vanya and I ourselves went to market to sell the flour.
YELENA ANDREYEVNA: I can't. And it isn't interesting. (3.18-24)
Hey, here's some activity! Sonya seems to be the only one who does anything in the whole play, but she just doesn't have the powers of persuasion to get anyone to join her. It's like she tells Yelena, "you just need to want to." And no one seems to want to. They would rather complain than lift a finger.