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Uncle Vanya

Summary

Act IV - Part One

Summary Act IV - Part One

Voynitsky concludes that he is a madman and a fool. Astrov retorts that Voynitsky is not mad but "simply eccentric"—as Astrov himself has been described throughout the play. Though Astrov once considered eccentricity "sick and abnormal", he has come to realize it is the "normal condition of mankind." As we have noted throughout, "eccentricity" refers in this play to an estrangement from both others and oneself. Thus, though the characters here might not be mad, we can certainly identify them they as doubly alienated in the manner described above. This estrangement is now a condition of existence.

Voynitsky also brings up the subject of time and memory, begging the doctor for a new life. To quote: "If you could wake up one clear, quiet morning and feel that you're beginning your life over again, that the entire past is forgotten, scattered to the winds like smoke." In begging for a new life, Voynitsky would escape his monotonous existence and make the memory of his wasted life disappear. Astrov, however, has no words of solace. Indeed, apparently no longer the visionary we saw in Act I, he remarks that the only happy visions one can hope for are those that may come in the grave.

As we will see, Astrov's sentence, condemning Vanya to his misery, prefigures Sonya's similarly fatalistic speech at the end of the play. These final moments will above all reveal how a rebirth for Vanya is impossible-only drudgery awaits him. Indeed, the restoration of daily routine is already prefigured here, not only by the interlude between Marina and Telegin that precedes their conversation, but by Chekhov's detailed description of his office as well.

[Additional note: In discussing the shooting with Marina, Telegin describes the stormy events of the household as worthy of Ayvazovsky's brush. I.K> Ayvazovsky (1817–1900) was a famous painter of seascapes.]