Exposition: The play takes place around 1895 in a small town in Russia. The play's four protagonists are Konstantin Treplev, Irina Arkadina, Nina Zarechnaya, and Boris Trigorin.
Rising Action: Nina gives Boris a parting gift that references one of his famous books and he begins to be tempted by her youth and beauty even though he is with Irina. Boris asks Irina for permission to have an affair with Nina, but Irina begs him to stay faithful to her and Boris agrees. Nina makes the decision to move to Moscow to become an actress and to be near Boris whom she has fallen in love with.
Climax: Nina and Boris kiss and promise to see each other in Moscow. This means Boris has lied to Irina and is planning to cheat on her with Nina. Conflict is also created between Nina, Boris, and Konstantin because Konstantin is in love with Irina.
Falling Action: Boris and Nina have an affair while they are both in Moscow. Nina becomes impregnated with Boris' baby, but it dies in childbirth. After his child's death, Boris goes back to Irina, whom he has continued to be in a relationship with the whole time.
Resolution: Konstantin becomes a successful writer, but is depressed because of his personal life and commits suicide. Boris and Irina stay together while Nina, moving on from her affair with Boris and their child's death, follows her dreams by becoming an aspiring actress.
The theme of this play is that you must always work to get the things that you want. If you do not give up, you will eventually succeed. All of the characters in this story eventually get what they desire. Konstantin becomes a successful writer, Nina becomes an actress, Boris gets Nina for the amount of time that he wants her, and Irina gets Boris back. They all persevere through their struggles and achieve their goals.
The Seagull: This symbol's meaning changes throughout the play. In the beginning, Nina uses it to describe the way she is drawn to the lake that is her childhood home and her neighbors. In this case, the seagull is a symbol for both freedom and security. Later, Konstantin shoots a seagull and gives it to Nina. He says that one day he will be dead in her honor like the seagull. The seagull is used as a foreshadowing device here because Konstantin does kill himself in Nina's honor at the end of the play when she still does not love him. Boris also uses the seagull as a symbol for how he will destroy Nina basically just for fun. The seagull goes from being a symbol of freedom to a symbol of dependence until finally it represents destruction at the hands of a loved one.
Weather: Chekhov uses the weather to set the tone in this play. An example is just before Nina comes back after her affair with Boris to visit Konstantin, the weather is stormy, which foreshadows Konstantin's suicide.
Around 1895 in Russia, there were frequent strikes made by the the working class because of horrible living and working conditions, high taxes, and land hunger. This prompted many different political parties, both liberal and conservative, to be formed during this time
Analyses of main characters
Konstantin Treplev: Konstantin is the twenty-something son of Irina Arkadina, a famous actress. In the beginning of the play he is nervous about the reception of the play as his mother is a famous actress and her lover, Boris, is a famous writer. It seems as if he needs her approval to be happy. Perhaps this is because she is very egotistic and spends more time making herself happy than her son. "Sometimes the simple egoism of an ordinary mortal makes me regret that I have a mother who's a famous actress, and it seems to me that if she had been an ordinary woman I should have been happier." (93) Konstantin is expressing his feelings about his mother here, and it is revealed that part of him wishes that his mother was just an ordinary woman so that she would be around more often for him, and so that he will feel less pressured in his work. He is also in love with the young Nina Zarechnaya, but she does not feel the same way. In fact, she ends up having an affair with his mother's lover, Boris, and becomes impregnated with his baby. About 2 years later, he becomes a published writer, but he still feels empty without Nina and takes his own life.
Irina Arkadina: Irina is Konstantin's middle-aged mother who is still beautiful, but past her prime. She is a selfish, hypocritical, and vain woman who provides most of the comedy to this play as she is so extreme that it is comical. This also makes her a likable character. She is part of an elite Russian social group because of her career as an actress and her lover. She does not make any effort to make her son feel included in this social group and often neglects him; however, where she lacks in affection for her son, she more than makes up for in her affection for Boris. She is usually rather cold and arrogant, but when Boris alludes to leaving her for Nina, she falls on her knees and begs him to stay. She says, "My beautiful, wonderful...You are the last chapter of my life! [Falls on her knees.] My joy, my pride, my bliss...[Embraces his knees.] If you leave me, even for one hour, I won't survive it, I'll lose my mind, my wonderful, magnificent one, my master..." (135) It is easy to see that she is infatuated with him. One can conclude that she is a very self-serving character.
Nina Zarechnaya: At the start of the play, Nina is a young girl who longs to be an actress, but after her affair with Boris, she becomes a smarter, more aware woman. When Boris and Nina first meet, he tells her about a new story he is writing. It is about a man who uses a young girl like he would shoot a seagull: just because he was bored and it was fun. When she comes back two years later, she says to Konstantin "I am a seagull" (156) because she realizes that Boris never had the intention of staying with her.
Boris Trigorin: Boris is an esteemed writer of fiction stories and novels. He is slightly obsessive compulsive about his writing and seems like a reluctant member of the group. He feels as if he lost the youthful romantic experience because he was trying to establish his career and uses this as an excuse for his affair with Nina. "In my youth, there wasn't time, I was always haunting the editors' office, fighting off poverty...And now that love has come at last, and is beckoning me ...What sense is there in running away from it?" ( 134-135) After this, Nina begs him not to leave her, and this is presumably when he decides to go behind Irina's back and have an affair with Nina.