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The Cherry Orchard

Sep 14, 2017 in Literature

The tale of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov can be seen as the story of any birthright, whether it is a traditionally passed down value or a literal inheritance of land. When Russia stood at the twilight of the nineteenth century, the Soviet experiment was away still two decades. While there was agitation about the plight of the peasant classes, the radical solutions of Lenin and Stalin seemed as unrealistic, perhaps as the idea that the tsars might be driven out of their empire. The Cherry Orchard serves as an allegory of one generation's mostly involuntary disposition of its property, and Lopakhin represents the nouveau riche in Russia — those whose ancestors had been peasants, but who rose in the relatively new merchant class to achieve some relative wealth. In the play, one of the characters Lopakhin buys "the estate that had enslaved his forefathers, but only after having tried to save it for the aristocracy" (Complete Works, 2011, p. 649). His role is to show how the fading aristocracy cannot see the coming doom, as well as how the younger generation had very little in the way of sympathy to give the aristocracy once it had refused to make concrete plans for change and the future.

The family that owns the estate can no longer afford to maintain it. Lopakhin has the practical idea of partitioning it into smaller lots of cottages; that way the family can keep its land. However, this would destroy the immense cherry orchard that makes the land distinct. Ironically, the family would rather lose the land than keep it and lose the orchard. The Lopakhin's repeated advice to the family is the driving force in the plot; rather than turn on emotional moments, the play turns on the suspense of the waiting aristocrats. While this may upset the audience, it also shows the frustration that comes with watching the society disintegration. Lopakhin is the new generation of the middle class, perhaps a bit sheepish at the aristocracy's falls, but unwilling to sacrifice its own future in order to save the aristocracy from itself.

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