The Cherry Orchard

On reading this piece I was immediately struck by how apparently the characters portray the social and political groups present in the transitional Soviet state. Most noticeable were the roles of Madame Ranevsky and Lopakin. Reading the interactions between the ex-bourgeoisie and the ex-serf related to the Communist conflict in Russia where those that felt oppressed, that felt like they had to take retribution, did so by assuming the property of the bourgeoisie and their status. These characters’ interests  (Ranevsky’s in the orchard and Lopakin’s in the tenement buildings) also reflect the interests of the combating classes of the time (Soviet Utilitarianism and Bourgeois Aestheticism).

In the context of the Russian country, this social mobility is in conflict with the legal stratified order, the soslovie. To maintain the established legal order would conflict with the reality of changing social norms. The classes that held social responsibilities, such as the clergy and the nobility, have been upturned by the social revolutions underway in Russia and this instability is eventually through the Soviet revolution.

The overwhelming turn towards utilitarianism and rationalism also contradict the nobility’s fascination with aesthetic and cultural value. As many of those born from the peasantry have come into economic power, they take their workers’ mentality and apply it to their surroundings. The desire to make work and life easier on their neighbors is taken from the era of serfdom. At this time a great majority of citizens were born of the working class, with very few from the nobility, contributing to a loss of respect toward “noble” ideas and practices. This is most apparently expressed through Ranevsky’s desire to hold the land for aesthetic value instead of utilizing it as property for the wealthy peasantry. As the wealthy peasantry grows, so will the demand on her land. Follwing this pattern, she will eventually be forced off the land or, as the play concludes, it is bought, reluctantly, from her.

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