Treplev displays an almost obsessive curiosity for his mother, Arkadina, and a child-like demanding necessity for her approval. He longs for acceptance as an equal or better to his mother and her lover, Trigorin. Because he grew up with a lower class status than Arkadina, based on the status of his father's class, Arkadina treats Treplev as lower than herself. She also does so to support her selfish, vain attitude about herself in which she insists on the undivided attention of everyone around her. Their relationship mirrors itself as both parent and child flips from parental to childish roles. This tension comes to a head in Act One before and after Arkadina ruins Treplev's play. As she shows off to the crowd of friends and family by performing some imperfect lines of Gertrude in Hamlet, and Treplev mimics her by coming back at her with Hamlet's lines, Arkadina and Treplev reveal their competitive relationship that has now increased in pitch with the arrival of Arkadina's lover, Trigorin. Trigorin's qualities of being a famous writer and a lover who gains large amounts of adoration and affection from Arkadina, mock the desires of Treplev. Treplev yearns for the kind of celebrity and success Trigorin has earned, as well as the admiration and affection his mother dotes on Trigorin. He sees Trigorin as corrupt and villainous, as is Claudius in Hamlet, because her natural, motherly affections have seemed to dry up and transform themselves into an adolescent-like, all-encompassing love for Trigorin, leaving little room for her to see the truth of Trigorin's selfish ways.
At the end of Act One, we will see a glimpse of the second love triangle that will become prominent in the play, the one between Treplev, Nina, and Trigorin. Nina's interest in and awe of Treplev's creativity quickly transforms into her interest in Trigorin, a more accomplished artist that may be more of a boon to her career than Treplev can be.