Study Guide

Uncle Vanya Tough-o-Meter

By Anton Chekhov

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(5) Tree Line

Uncle Vanya's plot is fairly straightforward, but there are a lot of elements of life in the 19th-century Russian countryside that might be unfamiliar to you, like the samovar for drinking tea, or what the nyanya's role is in the family. Just stick with it, though, and (with the help of a dictionary) you might find that some things haven't changed all that much in the past century or so.

The names of the characters can be difficult, too. This is a common problem with Russian literature, since Russians go by several different names. All Russians have a first name (like Ivan), a patronymic that comes from their father's first name (like Petrovich, which means "son of Peter," or Petrovna, which means "daughter of Peter"), a last name (like Voynitsky), and several diminutive or familiar names based on their first name (like Vanya, from Ivan), which is how friends and family address them. So Uncle Vanya's full name is Ivan Petrovich Voynitsky, but his friends and family call him Vanya. People who don't know him well will call him Ivan Petrovich to show their respect

Yeah, we know, it's a little confusing, but you'll get the hang of it, and we're here to help. You can take a look at our "Characters" section whenever you get confused.

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