Study Guide

Uncle Vanya Man and the Natural World

By Anton Chekhov

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Man and the Natural World

Our main representative character for this theme will be the good Doctor Astrov, a physician who's kind of a part-time forest ranger in his spare time. He's obsessed with the ill effects that industrialization is having on the Russian forests, and works to try to protect the woods and the general environment from people who would rather burn or build with wood than just enjoy it.

It's important to see that as a Realist play, Uncle Vanya doesn't use nature as a sort of magical, handy barometer for how everyone is feeling, like the Romantics used to do. However, the constant destruction, and the people's lack of a reaction to it, does show us something about the society that Chekhov is portraying.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Why do you think that Astrov is so obsessed with the environment?
  2. What are Astrov's proposals for saving the forest?
  3. What does the general societal attitude toward the environment tell us about the characters in the play?

Chew on This

Just like the Russians who are cutting down the forests with no regard to the consequences, Serebryakov lives off of the country estate without worrying about the effect on the people who live there.

Astrov's obsession is really about the decline of humanity, but he focuses on the forest because it's something he can actually try to save.

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