Tragedy of Futility in The Cherry Orchard

Many critics are unanimous in agreeing with the contention that The Cherry Orchard is a tragedy of futility. Every character from major to minor made their respective endeavor to handle the situation that went out of their control. Each and every character struggled their level best to attain the goal they cherished.

Anton Chekhov(1860-1904)

Each and every character worked as their respective capacities allowed them to work to carry out their sense of duty. They were committed to do their best. They did struggle. But, contrary to their expectation, their entire endeavor came to meet an abortive end. All of their aspiration, emotional or physical, terminated in utter futility. No character escaped the destiny of futility that befell them simultaneously.

To the best of their knowledge Gayev and Lyubov struggled to save their cherry orchard. Lyubov told Gayev to borrow money from her aunt so that the orchard can be saved from its immediate loss. But their feverish attempt to keep the orchard in their own possession ended in futility. The orchard fell into the hand of Lopakhin, who was their former serf. On the one hand, they felt hurt and offended at the loss of the orchard because the orchard was their lives and their lives were orchard. On the other hand, it was humiliating to see their former serf becoming the owner of their orchard. Both Gayev and Lyubov fell tragic victim to the innumerable pang of loss of the orchard. Their ego punctured as they felt reduced to the level below than that of their servants.

Lopakhin's attempt to protect his master's orchard through persuading them (Gayev and Lyobov) to build summer cottage failed. Lopakhin was jolted into profound shock at the childish disinterestedness of his masters toward his highly practical advice. Lopakhin was fond of Varya and vice versa. Varya expected him to take the first step in forwarding the proposal to her. Inwardly they liked and loved each other. But Lopakhin was confined in his inferiority. He felt inferior, though his material success has enabled him to feel superior. Due to his deeply imbedded inferiority, he did not muster courage to propose to her. Hence, the budding romance of Lopakhin was doomed to futility.

Trofimov's endeavor to instruct people on the path to accept change did not produce much more result. He tells people to believe in action, but ironically, he himself lived an idle life. Instead of earning respect from the people he received accusations. People called him ‘Mangy looking gentleman’. His romance with Anya did not materialize. His growing romantic intimacy with Anya ended in tragedy. At the last hour, Anya left for Moscow to pursue her study, whereas the perpetual student Trofimov left for university.

Varya's life was also left in tragic limbo. Her mother Lyubov did not take her to Paris. Even her romantic anticipation to spend her entire life with Lopakhin collapsed in utter futility. At the end of the play, Lopakhin is seen leaving Varya without giving any word of promise.

Anya's effort to be within the territory of Trofimov's love ended in tragic futility. She saw no prospect of choosing Trofimov as her lifelong friend because he had still not fixed his career. A silly governess Charlotta was also emotionally confused and confounded. She was so confounded that she forgot her own name. Her love affair with Yepikhodov produced no atom of success.

Hence, upon closer examination, we come to grasp a hidden fact that every character struggles to get his/her aspiration and ambition accomplished. But the tragic fact is that their endeavor ended in utter futility. Hence, the play is a tragedy of futility.

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