Status and the Middle Class in The Cherry Orchard

The characters in the Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov demonstrate the changing relationship among social classes during the late tsarist period in Russia. The power of the aristocracy was shrinking, while at the same time, members of the peasantry were rising to form a new middle class.

Madame Lyubov Andreyevna,her brother Gayev, and neighbor Simeonov-Pishchik are all members of the old aristocracy, unable to transition to a society where status no longer guarantees wealth Madame Ranevskaya’s daughter Anya fits into this group as well as a result of her upbringing, but perhaps due to her age she is in some ways able to see a way to function in a new society that is not based on titles.

Dunyasha, Yepikhodov, Charlotta Ivanovna, Yasha, and Firs all fall into the lower class of servants, but which would also include peasants, which have always depended on working for a noble. Firs and Yashastand at two different ends, due to their age. Firs is still trying to process the meaning of his status as a free person, which he thoroughly rejects, whereas Yasha looks forward to the opportunity to travel with Lyubov Andreyevna as a almost a companion rather than a servant.

Petya Trofimov, Lopakhin, and Varya, based on their understanding that work is necessary to survive and grow, do not fit with the aristocracy, but their self-reliance also sets them apart from the aristocracy. However, each still partly identifies with the social group they came from, though they no longer belong to it based on measures of wealth or education. The middle class in particular faced the problem of defining their role in society, as there was no precedent from earlier history. In addition, growing social mobility further complicated things, as many members of this new group came from poorer backgrounds and but through education or business success were able to gain higher social status. What is interesting is that none of them seem to get along with each other. Lopakhin thinks that Trofimov reads too much, Trofimov thinks that Varya is bossy, and Varya cannot stand the idea of marrying Lopakhin. Despite this, their interactions with each other are not always camaraderous, even though in actuality, they have the most in common.


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