Analysis of “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov
The Seagull is a famous play by Russian author Anton Chekhov who significantly influenced worldwide theater arts. The comedy was primarily performed in 1896, and the central theme it addressed was the distinction in world perception and values between generations. The play contains four acts and thirteen characters of diverse social statuses and professions, such as the actress Irina Arkadina, the retired military servant Pyotr Sorin, and Nina Zarechniy, the wealthy landlord’s daughter (Chekhov, 2021). Chekhov selected an aristocratic estate in the Russian countryside as a setting to unite the personalities of different backgrounds, ages, and purposes to reveal how the interaction and exchange of hopes and dreams impacted their lives. This paper aims to analyze the play’s plot, characters, images used by the author, and reasons for selecting specific setting such as countryside estate.
The Seagull’s plot is similar to most Russian plays of the XIX century as it is built on the interaction of two or three generations with diverse values and needs. The characters have diverse desires, such as love, success, and artistic pleasure, yet life, financial conditions, and relationships challenges make it difficult to achieve them. The play begins from the conversation between the teacher Medvedenko and the estate’s manager, daughter Masha, and the scene addresses the central idea. Indeed, Medvedenko loves Masha, who does not have the same feelings as him, and her first line, “I’m in mourning for my life. I’m unhappy,” reflects the unsatisfactory mood of all characters (Chekhov, 2021). Masha is in love with Konstantin, who cannot love her in return because of his affection for Nina, his neighbor.
As the characters have opposite personalities, worldviews, and aspirations, The Seagull’s conflict is vividly drawn through their conversations, decisions, and actions. The contrasting values of younger and older generations and their envy for each other enable them to argue and show disrespect regardless of their family bonds. The persistent conflict of unshared love displays that people do not know themselves and cannot make the right decisions in selecting whom to build relationships with. Konstantin’s suicide at the last act as the only resolution emphasizes the urgency of the issues surrounding young people (Chekhov, 2021). The forthcoming lies about the gunshot to his mother show that the older characters prefer lies and living in denial rather than facing the ugly truth and the challenge to change.
The setting is Russian countryside, Sorin’s estate located among quiet nature far from urban areas, and the author selected the place to emphasize the characters’ despair. In Russia, houses in rural areas and the ability to afford such properties reveal aristocratic backgrounds and wealth (Chekhov, 2021). However, the unhappy experiences of the young generation representatives show that staying at the enclosed and faraway place is an additional pressure they are forced to feel instead of developing and choosing their own paths. Furthermore, the estate’s setting creates the feeling that the solution or way out does not exist. Chekhov’s worrying for the young generation is visible through their disrespect of the old place and the tragic final of the play.
The seagull was the bird shot by Konstantin, and its image was used in one of Trigonin’s novels. Chekhov aimed to reveal how young souls are willing to fly and develop yet are captured at seashores such as Sorin’s estate and comply with the rules of life (Chekhov, 2021). Nina is the character who represents the freedom of spirit and power of dreams, and she signs her letters to Konstantin as “The Seagull,” emphasizing her fate’s similarity to one of the dead bird.
Chekhov’s play is the world’s classical drama where the issues such as the conflict of generations, love, envy, and success are described. The interaction between characters with diverse worldviews and desires revealed crucial aspects of human nature and the striving to love, create, achieve, and be valued. The thoughts and ideas the author tailored through the image of seagulls and personalities are applicable for the current relationships between people of all ages and nations.
Chekhov, A. (2021). The Seagull. Maven Books.