The Cherry Orchard as a Tragicomedy

The play The Cherry Orchard is an example of tragicomedy for we can see the ruin of Madame Ranevskaya due to the destruction of her lovely cherry orchard on the one side and rise of a middle class merchant Lopakhin, who was a former slave on the other side.

Anton Chekhov(1860-1904)

The play suffered with an over-powering sense of inevitability through which Anton Chekhov depicts the conflict between the necessity for change and the nostalgia for the past. The play is set in an aristocratic family of Russia in the early twentieth century, but in the broader sense its setting is the setting of social transformation. Chekhov wants to show that the society is in a perpetual state of change along with the downfall and rise. The play clearly shows the phasing out of aristocratic ethos and rising of middle class society.

Landlady Renevskaya comes back to her home country from Paris along with her daughter and footman. She is in great debt and the cherry orchard is going to be sold. But Ranevskaya does not seem to be practical because she is spendthrift lady who spends money carelessly. She demands most expensive food in the restaurant at the railway station and gives gold coins to each waiter. Forgetting her present condition, she gives money to beggars even if her servants are starving and not getting payment. As a result of her refusal to change, she loses her loving cherry orchard. Here, she takes it (giving money) as a duty of upper-class people. She tries to live on that upper class ethos without realizing the present condition. She is in such a critical situation that she has to pay off a greater amount of loan, yet she does not feel to need of change. She does not forget her blissful and romantic past. She acts as if she is still wealthy women having enough money. It is due to her impracticality, she tragically faces her ruin. To save herself from ruin she requires to change instantly, but she does not. Here she represents ideal sitting and impractical life of the aristocrat of Russia.

Lopakhin, a merchant, who was once serf represent the middle class people, who are hardworking, practical and enthusiastic as quite opposed to the so called ethos of Ranevskaya. He works a lot in order to uplift his social economic status. His upward mobility is a result of his practicality. He gives practical suggestion to Lady Ranevskaya to give cherry orchard in lease to the foreigners so that she would be saved from the ruin. She, however, can’t accept the new way and refuses to think about a foreigner living in her childhood home. Her refusal to change leads to the loss of the cherry orchard. She even goes to the extent that she stops her brother Gayev to the job of bank that is offered him. Ironically, when the estate is auctioned, it is purchased by Lopakhin. After his release and freedom from the position of slavery, he becomes a successful merchant who is able to afford to purchase the state. This marks the comic element in the play. Symbolically, the selling of cherry orchard shows that the old order must give the way to the new. Students like Trofimov logically supports to the slave. Here, Trofimov symbolizes the utopian world where as Ranevskaya and Lopakhin represent, respectively aristocrats (past) and bourgeois (present).

There are other countless comical and farcical elements in the play that can be traced in the manner and the disposition of characters. The dominant comic element results from Gayev's ridiculousness. He eats candis continually. This candy eating is a symbol of his childishness, of his unfitness for the adult world. Even the old butler treats him like a child, worrying whether he is dressed properly when he goes out and bringing him his coat when it is cold. Another brand of comic elements emerges from Lyubov. Lyubov has never matured. When her husband had died and her son had been drowned shortly afterwards, she left Russia with her lover, leaving her two daughters behind her lover has been unfaithful, and has spent all her money. Yet at the end of the play she returns to him. Gayev and Lyubov's childishness and ridiculous mentality get revealed in their passive stand on the most admirable suggestion given by Lopakhin in an attempt to save Lyobov's the Cherry Orchard.

In Varya also we get plenty of comic traits. She is unable to secure happiness because of her indecision. Yet in her management of the household, she imposes a severe discipline. She loves to loathe, but is quite incapable of disregarding the conventions which demand that the lady has to wait for the gentleman to propose to her. She is a comic character because of her lack of purpose, her frequent weeping, her inability to show any affection to the man she loves.

Almost all major characters reveal comic themes and comic traits because they are all in divergence from the norms. Even some of the minor characters are source of comic traits. Charlotte reveals her ludicrous nature by forgetting even how old she is. In her loudness she gains for herself a group of admirers by her conjuring.

At the end of the play, the family has left for Paris. Firs, 84 years old man is lying on the sofa. His motionless symbolizes the death of the aristocracy. The stage is empty. The sound of a door while being locked is heard. The sound of cutting of trees is overheard. Similarly, we see the crying of snap strings mournfully dying. All these sad notes symbolically stand for the phasing out of aristocracy. All these tragic and comic elements make the play a great example of tragicomedy.

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