Review: The Three Sisters by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

The Three Sisters by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

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This famous drama tells the story of Andrei Prozorov and his three sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina. It is set in a small provincial town somewhere in Russia. Before The Three Sisters I only read The Cherry Orchard, and I remember how irritated I was about the incapability of all the characters to do anything about their miserable situation, even though the solution was right under their noses. Maybe I wasn't prepared for Chekhov then, maybe I'm ready for him now, as The Three Sisters spoke right to the core of my being.
In the first act there is a balance between unhappiness and hope for change. Irina, the youngest sister, seems to be especially positive about the future. Masha and Olga are both unhappy, Masha in her marriage, and Olga with her job. All of them dream about moving back to Moscow to live a better life there along with their brother Andrei who supposedly is going to have a great academic career. At this point you really hope their dreams will come true and there will be a happy ending, but it won't happen, because it's Chekhov, right? And indeed, over the other three acts you'll learn that no matter how kind and educated the three sisters and their brother are, they are still typical Chekhov's characters. Very good at dreaming of better future and moaning over their miserable lives, and very incapable of doing anything at all besides whimpering.
Andrei seems to me to be the weakest one. He loves his books and the academic career appeals to him, however, the "love" between him and Natasha ruins it all. Natasha preys on his weakness and step by step she takes over the household and through that also over the fate of all siblings. And the saddest part is that they let her. Sometimes there is a weak protest, but that is all.
They never move to Moscow, of course, and in the end there is no hope left. Olga ends up as the headmistress at the local grammar school, something she never wanted to be, Masha loses her real love and lover, and Irina loses her fiancé and so also the hope for better future. The only "happy" person is Natasha who rules the household, has a lover, and still her husband talks about his love for her, and how very honourable woman she is. At that point you feel like screaming and hitting Andrei very hard, and hugging him and all of his sisters at the same time. You feel very sorry for them, it's heartbreaking.
On the other hand it is a real eye-opener, or a reminder. If you want something in your life, you have to do something for it, not only whimper and think it will happen without you doing and giving up anything. Also, the fixation with (better) future is unhealthy. Sure, we all like to plan ahead and there is nothing wrong with that, only sometimes it also means forgetting to live in the present, and that is a shame.

PS: Here is one of our cats, Antis, but I renamed him to Anton Pavlovich Chekhov. He loved to look out of a window at the cherry orchard that was right beside our house. And you know what? They cut it down! And Antis just sat on the windowsill and did nothing.


Anonymous said...

That’s a very intriguing contrast between the sisters. Natasha, the selfish one, is the happiest. Strength and selfishness in Chekhov’s world seem to be rewarded. Often times in the real world too.

Petra said...

Natasha is actually Andrei's wife, but I totally agree, it is a great contrast. It shows that selfish people aren't afraid to ask for anything. She's very unlikable character! :)

Bookie Bee said...

Wow...the contrast between the sisters sounds interesting!!
P.S: Love your cat!!

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