Uncle Vanya

by: Anton Chekhov

Yelena Andreevna

Not being as prone to monologues as Astrov and Voynitsky, the beautiful Yelena is a somewhat mysterious figure. Certainly a number of characters (not to mention critics) write her off as a shallow woman who does little more than idly eat, sleep, and charm with her beauty. This portrait of Yelena, however, perhaps gives her short shrift. Rather than simply charm, it is clear that she fascinates all the major characters of the play, apparently seducing Voynitsky and Astrov without any effort, though again, Chekhov's dependence on indirect action leaves us speculating. She also distracts Sonya from her work entirely. Indeed, in Act III Sonya will describe Yelena's idleness as "infectious" and bewitching, drawing everyone from their duties. More ominously in Act IV, Astrov will cast her has a harbinger of disaster, precipitating both the ruin of the land that in turn reflects the ruin in the household.

As for Yelena's self-understanding, we find few key clues. Like the others who have wasted their lives, she appears to have abandoned a budding music career to marry the aging Serebryakov, with whom she remains out of habit. Also like a number of the play's characters, she suffers from a certain sense of self- estrangement. Unlike the characters whose sense of alienation lies in age or displacement, however, Yelena feels estranged from herself in being an "incidental character" in her own life, in feeling inconsequential in her own existence.