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 selfreliance 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.

What is History?

Barbra Tuchman’s definition of history struck me as beautifully romantic. Her emphasis on the story, the narrative, the personal effect history can have on an individual in my mind rang true to the core. Her story regarding her time spent writing her first thesis struck a particular chord. Immersed in literature, Tuchman almost literally had history flow through her as she wrote; it seemed to act as her muse. Her tale, unlike Edward Carr’s, deals with a more scientific and concrete interpretation of the subject. He speaks of a continuous process, a process built upon interaction between historian and facts; a historical dialogue between past and present.

History to me, much like Tuchman, is all about the story. I can remember back to my youth and listening to my father tell me stories about King Arthur and his knights of the round table or being captivated by tales of the adventures of Robin Hood made me curious about the subject. My thirst for knowledge about history came primarily from those stories, and as I grew older and began to read on my own, I found that reality was even more fascinating than the fantasies my father had told me. I was captivated by the lives of people such as Richard the Lionheart, Harold of Essex, Henry V, and other medieval  figures of note. From this captivation, I delved more deeply into the subject of history, specifically the history of medieval society. From that childish interest and excitement I matured into a genuine love for history in general. The dates and facts, however, always came second to the story as a whole. As I got older I began to think of the subject in a much larger sense, a sense which Tuchman took to heart as well. History to me is the world’s novel, a novel in which each society throughout time contributes a chapter. A novel whose protagonist is human kind, one which shifts it’s nature from time period to time period, reflecting the direction in which society is heading.

History as manipulation?

Carl Becker describes the average man as “Mr. Everyman” who is a historian in his own right. He is not a historian who has studied the course of history and the significant events that have taken place, rather a historian of his own life. Becker states that “History is the memory of things said and done” which includes everything in life. Mr. Everyman is a historian of things that occur in his life daily, using memory as his key source. Memory is described as the main function of history, that without it, one would be lost in life and have no significance in the present or in his “tomorrows”. Becker’s argument using Mr. Everyman to describe the average person and his analysis of his every day life to show what is coming in the future is a very interesting perspective to have.

Edward Carr’s article and analysis on history provokes the idea that history is all about manipulation. He describes how historians will find the facts they want to find, and that everything is open to being manipulated, scrutinized, or used in  such a way that it becomes easy to manipulate history. He discusses how history can be defined as just a set of facts, or as our own position in time, in society. Carr’s approach to interpretation is interesting in that he uses the metaphor of fishing to describe how authors, historians, and anyone who is looking for facts usually finds just the ones they want, not necessarily the collective answer. I agree with his analysis that history is open to interpretation, and I do believe it is usually manipulated to get an expected response from the reader.

In my opinion, history is a set of facts, that usually repeats itself.Facts are always subject to interpretation and manipulation.  I believe that history is usually manipulated in the media, only to show pieces to the public.These two articles have opened my eyes to the fact that someones desire to present an idea one way is plausible without presenting all the facts to be truthful. History, in my opinion, does not have to be something significant, but a memory that you have, or a tradition started within a family in hopes of it recurring. History is the story, and the background of any person, place, or thing. Every thing on earth has a history of some kind, whether its where a product came from, who made something happen, or the story of how something came to be, it just all depends on how you look at the facts.