Marxist Literary Criticism and The Class Roles Of The Characters In The Cherry Orchard
The play The Cherry Orchard was intended to be a comedy by Chekhov, but the director of the play staged it as a tragedy play. Apparently, the subject matter employed in the play is extensive as much as there are comical elements, especially regarding the addiction of Ranevskaya’s brother to billiards. The characters portrayed in the movie depicted different kinds of social realism that were postulated during the Marxism’s reign. In essence, as the time goes by, the passage of the old social class has to welcome and usher in a new social class because of social change and transformation. According to the Marxism theory, people apply this social change law universally around the globe. Moreover, according to the manner in which the characters such as Gayev, Ranevskaya, and Lopakhin were depicted in the play, there is no way a single class in any social history can maintain and keep hold of their supremacy levels as well as their privileged status without incurring a challenge.
In the thrilling play The Cherry Orchard, it is clear that Ranevskaya and Gayev represent the dying democracy. In particular, their growing number of debts made them to auction their orchard. Otherwise, they could lose their orchard because they had no more options. However, there was a slight opportunity for the orchard to be saved by putting it on lease for the creation of summer cottages if the virtually dying class could have accepted to live a life full of compromise and adaptation. In spite of this chance, because of their pride, they never allowed their orchard to be leased. Gayev and Lyubov were more than willing to depart that place rather than to witness other individuals possessing it. Moreover, they attempted their last battle in their unsuccessful and hopeless attempt to retrieve and save their orchard. However, they did not succeed and ended up failing in the process. Consequently, the orchard fell into hands of the much more sensible and practical man named Lopakhin.
Apparently, Lopakhin is a true symbol of the emerging middle class based on the Marxism theoretical principles. He is a man who believed in practical activities, hence making him to be acknowledged as a man of action. In other words, this main attribute of Lopakhin, which was modeled around the tendency to take quick action, meant to propel him above the underprivileged class through success emanating from financial and practical resources. Initially, Lophakhin belonged to what was then known as the working class since he was once a servant in Lyubov’s house. However, through his diligent and hard work and practical way of thinking, he became successful. Moreover, with the financial stability that he had earned, he ended up moving to the middle class from the working one. In terms of economic stability, he managed to buy the cherry orchard when it was being auctioned for the highest bidder. Having done that, he attracted the attention of the aristocracy, which is clearly shown in the play when Ranevskaya offers his daughter to him. However, Lopakhin did not accept the offer at once. In addition, according to Marxism perspective, if Lopakhin in the play represents the middle class, then it is obvious that another character – Trofimov – represents the visionary and theoretical ideas of the class that was known for its commitment to embrace challenges.
Altogether, the characters in The Cherry Orchard represent the real life social phenomenon that exemplified the traditional feudal way of living, which welcomed the rapidly expanding mercantile and capitalist middle class. Additionally, as a model of social realism, the characters in the play represent the setting of the Russian society that occurred during the ninetieth century when the Russians were experiencing the threshold of change. In particular, in the play, Chekhov captured the undying reality of transition and changes since it is through the displacement of Gayev and Ranevskaya that the reader is able to see the failures of adaptation and compromise in the society. Apparently, this situation symbolizes the fact that the early 20th century was the last period that witnessed the collapse of the feudal societal structure. Furthermore, in this play, the feudal society is symbolized as boring, ridiculously ideal, dreamy, and passive. In simple terms, these characteristics clearly show that the feudal class had no right to be on the topmost place at the social hierarchy. In the book, there is also the depiction of the middle class as individuals who are hardworking, sensible, practical, painstaking, radical, and ambitious. Therefore, it can be argued that the writer of the play is in support of the emergence of the middle class during this period.
Furthermore, Madame Ranevskaya is also among the few characters in the play that are not able to adapt to the needs and the demands of the society. In other words, her behavior when she is unable to pay her own debts but helps a friend by giving money for her loan can be described as irrational. Essentially, she continues to be more generous with strangers and her friends as well as to live an aristocratic life even though the aristocratic power does not offer her any advantage in her predicaments at any point. She finds it difficult to change; hence, surrounding herself with Yasha is a clear symbolism of failing to adapt. On the contrary, Simeonof-Pishtchik represents a true picture of adaptability. In the play, he is a neighbor who owns land next to the cherry orchard and is always social in nature. Moreover, he is able to adapt and make jokes where others have failed. Even though during most of his appearances in the play he is characterized by debts, he always finds a way to pay them off by the end of the acts. Given the fact that he requests some loan from Madame Ranevskaya when she herself is not able to pay off her debts, Simeonof-Pishtchick turns out to be the only character that is dynamic and can do anything to become successful.
In summary, according to the manner in which the characters such as Gayev, Ranevskaya, and Lopakhin were depicted in the play, there is no way a single class in any social history can maintain and keep hold of their supremacy levels as well as their privileged status without incurring a challenge. In simple terms, the history of the Russian century during the early twentieth century can be said to be a history of social transformation and transition. Additionally, the Russian society, which was trying so hard to break free from the shibboleth of what was then acknowledged as the dying feudal aristocracy, characterized the late stages of the ninetieth century. Parallel to this struggle and due to the final change it brought, the Russian society also managed to hasten the birth of a mercantile middle class. Ultimately, the play The Cherry Orchard is well written and enriched with a number of themes that characterize the manner in which things had been happening during the 19th and 20th century in the Russian society.
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