The Cherry Orchard

by: Anton Chekhov

Motifs

Main ideas Motifs

Nature

Nature, as represented by the orchard has significant value in The Cherry Orchard, both as something of inherent beauty and as a connection with the past. Ranevsky is overjoyed in the presence of the cherry orchard, and even Lopakhin, who destroys it, calls it the "most beautiful place on earth". And though he doesn't save the orchard, he talks with joy about 3,000 acres of poppies he has planted and looks forward to a time when his cottage-owners will enjoy summer evenings on their verandahs, perhaps planting and beautifying their properties.

Nature is also seen as a source of both illusion and memory in this play. For example, Ranevsky's illusory sighting of her dead mother in Act One. In Nature, Gayev sees "eternity", a medium that joins together the past and present with its permanence. But the orchard is being destroyed, the idyllic countryside has telegraph poles running through it, and Ranevksy and Gayev's idyllic stroll through the countryside is interrupted by the intrusion of a drunkard. In fact, it is the very permanence ascribed to Nature that, through the play, is revealed to be an illusion.

The Union of Naturalism and Symbolism

The Cherry Orchard is on one level, a naturalistic play because it focuses on scientific, objective, details. It thus is like realism, in that it attempts to portray life "as it really is". Of course, these details are selected, sketched and presented in a certain way, guided by the author's intent. It is not actually science we are dealing with here. But throughout his career, Chekhov frequently stated his goal as an artist to present situations as they actually were, and not to prescribe solutions. And this is revealed in the way Chekhov's selection and presentation of details. Whenever we feel a desire to overly sympathize with one character, whenever we feel a desire to enter the play, so to speak, and take up their side (and their perspective), Chekhov shows us the irony in it-for example, when Lopakhin, when Lopakhin gloats about how far he has come from his brutal peasant origins, he does it in a brutal manner, thus betraying those origins. Chekhov's irony takes us out of the play and put back in our seats. This is how he creates his "objectivity".