A reaction paper to "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov.

Essay by bigdawg89College, UndergraduateB+, October 2008

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"The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov is a play about a Russian family that encounters financial problems which force them to sell their treasured estate in an auction. First off, this play really appealed to me because Chekhov managed to create a comedy with a backdrop of war torn Russian society under the rule of Lenin. Although some do interpret it as a tragedy, I look at it the same way Chekhov meant it to be looked at, as a comedy. The characters, especially Simon Yephikodov and his clumsiness, suggest a cheerful tone along with Chekhov's satire and irony; but some believe it was a tragedy because the failure of their struggles in trying to save the orchard. Chekhov uses the characters to express his feelings about life and the Russian government throughout the play. However, I feel that for one to truly understand the underlying meanings in this play, it would be necessary to actually live in this society to fully grasp the peculiarity of the issues at hand.

The play took place on a Russian estate belonging to Mrs. Ranevsky. Mrs. Ranevsky was a woman who looked to throwing money around as a way to forget about the drowning of Grisha and her husband's death. She had come into town from Paris with her daughter Anya, along with Charlotte (Anya's governess), Yasha (a young servant), Leonid Gayev (Mrs. Ranevsky's brother), Varya (Her adopted daughter), and Firs (Her elderly servant). Everyone around her realized, but she had no idea she was so detached from reality. She did not see that she was no longer wealthy like she used to be, but rather deeply in debt. In order for her to get out of her debt, it is necessary to sell the estate. Yermolay Lopakhin, a businessman with mixed feelings towards Mrs. Ranevsky due to prior experiences, proposes an alternative plan to selling the estate. He proposes that they parcel out lots on the land, and lease them out to summer cottage holders. There is one problem with his plan; it would require that the beloved cherry orchard be cut down.

Mrs. Ravensky is a woman tied up in memories. Her entire life has been full of running, running from problems, people, and herself. She cannot imagine cutting down the orchard because it holds so many of those terrible, and fond memories. Lopakhin is also somewhat indebted to Mrs. Ravensky because all of the kind things she has done for him in the past. This brings up one of the main themes of the play, moving on from the past. All of the money, favors, and emotional ties create so much tension that they prevent any changes from really happening.

I would compare myself to Yermolay Lopakhin, simply because he is a business man willing to make impacting decisions. He is constantly in charge, and is responsible for a majority of the movement of the play. He realizes that Mrs. Ravensky is a key figure in some of the memories that are holding him back. He decides that in order to break away from the past, he must destroy the orchard. On the day of the auction, Mrs. Ravensky throws a huge party. Ravensky and Peter Trofimov, an adult student at a local university, get into an argument where Trofimov tells Mrs. Ravensky that she just refuses to ever face to truth, etc… During this time, Trofimov also clears up the stupid rumors going around about him and Anya having an affair. Soon after, Lopakhin returns and tells everyone that he is the new owner of the orchard and plans to destroy it! This was a huge personal victory for him as it symbolizes the destruction of his past memories and the start of new beginnings.

Eventually, the orchard is destroyed; everyone says their goodbyes and goes their separate ways. All of the sudden, Firs appears out of nowhere. The ill 87 year old manservant was left behind when everyone made their grand departures. With the background sound of an axe cutting a tree, he is left alone on stage to ponder how his life has literally flown by him right before his eyes. Everyone has left, the orchard no longer exists, and ties have been broken. People have moved on, and it becomes apparent that "the past" is truly past.

Sources Used:"Stages of Drama" By Klaus, Gilbert, and Field Jr. 5th Edition, 2003. Bedford/St. Martin's.