Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Cherry Orchard: Meaning Behind the Cherries

What does the cherry orchard symbolize? Is there a conflict between realism and symbolism?

Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard is about an aristocratic Russian family who is losing their cherry orchard because they don't have the money to pay for it. We learn that the orchard is famous for its gigantic size but not for its production of cherries. Firs states: "Back in the old days, forty, fifty years ago, they used to make dried cherries, pickled cherries preserved cherries, cherry jam, and sometimes--" but when Liubóv asks if anyone knows how to fix them, Firs responds that "They all forgot" (353). This makes the cherries a reminder of the past, much like the aristocracy. Instead of being useful, it is a useless reminder of the past. The characters echo this as the family has not changed with the time and are focused on their past at the orchard. The cherry orchard allows these memories to be shared. 

Liubóv and Gáyev use the cherry orchard to remember their childhood. Trofímov uses the cherry orchard to remind Ánya of how the cherry orchard has always been reliant on other people's hard work, but never her family's. Other characters, such as Lopákhin plan on using the orchard for financial reasons, since the family will not. 
The Cherry Orchard by Boston University Mainstage (Dec. 2006)

The reader sees the orchard as the location as a place of change. The old have their traditional, idealistic view on the orchard, while the younger generation is ready to change with the time (and perhaps incite a future revolution in Trofímov's case). The orchard symbolizes the connection between the present and past. In the end the orchard is destroyed and the aristocratic family leaves in separate directions without a home to return to.

One set at the Singapore Arts Festival for The Cherry Orchard

The conflict between realism and symbolism would be the size. The cherry orchard subdivided into plots would still bring the family 25,000 rubles ($500,000) per acre, so one can only guess at the size of the orchard (352). In addition, realistic changes are happening to change the orchard as a homeless man wanders onto their property. 

A cherry orchard in bloom (found through Google Images)

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