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Atrov's Monologue from "Uncle Vanya"

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CONTEXT: In the first act of Anton Chekhov's play, "Uncle Vanya," a frustrated country doctor named Mikhail Lvovich Astrov, expresses his disdain regarding mankind's poor treatment of the beautiful forests of Russia. The following monologue is provides a very relevant environmental message, even though it was written over 110 years ago.

ASTROV: You can burn peat in your stoves and build your sheds of stone. Oh, I don't object, of course, to cutting wood from necessity, but why destroy the forests? The woods of Russia are trembling under the blows of the axe. Millions of trees have perished. The homes of the wild animals and birds have been desolated; the rivers are shrinking, and many beautiful landscapes are gone forever. And why? Because men are too lazy and stupid to stoop down and pick up their fuel from the ground. (To HELENA) Am I not right, Madame? Who but a stupid barbarian could burn so much beauty in his stove and destroy that which he cannot make? Man is endowed with reason and the power to create, so that he may increase that which has been given him, but until now he has not created, but demolished. The forests are disappearing, the rivers are running dry, the game is exterminated, the climate is spoiled, and the earth becomes poorer and uglier every day. (To VOITSKI) I read irony in your eye; you do not take what I am saying seriously, and—and—after all, it may very well be nonsense. But when I pass peasant-forests that I have preserved from the axe, or hear the rustling of the young plantations set out with my own hands, I feel as if I had had some small share in improving the climate, and that if mankind is happy a thousand years from now I will have been a little bit responsible for their happiness. When I plant a little birch tree and then see it budding into young green and swaying in the wind, my heart swells with pride and I--

(He sees the WORKMAN, who is bringing him a glass of vodka on a tray) However — (He drinks) I must be off. Probably it is all nonsense, anyway. Good-bye.

Written by Anton Chekhov. Interpretation text from Project Gutenberg.

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