The Cherry Orchard
Study Questions and Essay Topics
Many of the most important and traumatic events in the play—Grisha's drowning, the sale of the orchard, Ranevsky's suicide attempt—either happen before the play's action or off-stage. Why do you think Chekhov would stage some of the most dramatic events outside the confines of the play itself? What effect does this have on the play?
When a drunkard stumbles upon several of the characters in the countryside near the end of Act Two, each one reacts in a different way to his intrusion and his demands. What do these reactions tell us about the characters in question?
Discuss the use of the pauses in The Cherry Orchard. How does Chekhov use the pause for the purposes of characterization? What other ends does it serve?
Suggested Essay Topics
In Act One, Ranevsky thinks she sees her mother in the cherry orchard. At the end of Act Two, Trofimov talks of "faces" gazing at he and Anya from the leaves and trunks of the trees. Compare and contrast these two "visions", discussing what they tell us about each character and that character's attitude towards the orchard.
Discuss Chekhov's use of irony. Is it stable or unstable? In other words, is there a privileged viewpoint free from irony in the play, or is the irony subversive of all the viewpoints in general? Does Chekhov ever hint, among all the different views of life expressed in the play, what his own viewpoint might be? And how does Chekhov create irony? Discuss his use of juxtaposition and contrast.
Discuss the role of music in The Cherry Orchard. How does it affect the mood of the play? Does it play a role in the play's symbolism?
What role does Yephikodov play in the story? Is he simply a source of comic relief, or does he also contribute to the play's important themes?
There are several characters in The Cherry Orchard who are frequently mentioned, yet never appear on stage. Discuss their effect on the development of the story, playing particular attention to their effect on Mrs. Ranevsky.
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