The most prominent recurring symbol in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull is, unsurprisingly, the seagull. Although the bird’s symbolism varies each time it emerges, it is constantly referenced throughout the play by nearly all the protagonists. The bird is repeatedly used as a reference to Nina’s development in the play. The seagull starts out representing freedom and security, yet later transforms to symbolize dependence and devastation.
The symbol of the seagull is most prominently used to represent Nina. She begins the play by demonstrating her feelings of freedom and security when she expresses to her peers that the “lake attracts [her] as it does the gulls”(Act I). Here, Nina refers to herself as a seagull; free to enjoy the wonders the lake has to offer. The lake is where she spent her childhood alongside her now deceased mother. It is where she enjoyed an innocent and carefree life.
Another character that the seagull symbolizes is Constantine. In his case, the bird is used as clear foreshadowing of this protagonist’s tragic demise. As a result of Constantine’s unrequited love for Nina, he attempts to make a clear and bold statement by suggesting that he will not keep on living without her love: “I was base enough to-day to kill this gull. I lay it at your feet. […] So shall I soon end my own life” (Act II). Constantine’s attempt fails as Nina is only upset to see a dead bird and does not understand his gesture.
Following Constantine’s desperate display of longing for Nina, Trigorin encounters the dead seagull and becomes inspired. He tells Nina: “An idea for a short story. A young girl grows up on the shores of a lake, as you have. She loves the lake as the gulls do, and is as happy and free as they. But a man sees her who chances to come that way, and he destroys her out of idleness, as this gull here has been destroyed” (Act II). This “short story” is not only an obvious foretelling of Nina’s future, but also tells of her...