Analyze the way in which Chekhov represents the movement of history in The Cherry Orchard. How is the play’s dramatic conflict predicated on the historical transformation of Russian society?
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I will direct you to the very concise and informative page in the Enotes Study Guide on "Historical Context" in The Cherry Orchard. Here is a bit of what the Entoes editors have to say about your topic:
In 1904, the year The Cherry Orchard was first produced, Russia was in a state of upheaval.. . .The tensions both in and outside Russia made life difficult for Russian citizens. The middle class began to assume an elevated position in society as many nobles lost their wealth and large, lavish estates. As the Ranevsky family discovers, Russia is changing and the climate is no longer hospitable to those who do not act in their own interests. . . .When the serfs were freed, the landowners were forced to pay for labor, and as conditions in Russia worsened due to war and the totalitarian regime, revolution becomes imminent.
So, Chekhov is capturing a huge shift in the social order of Russia. No longer are the landed gentry able to live secure and secluded from the plights of the poor, isolated within their estates. Their power structure began to crumble as they could no longer afford to maintain their lavish lifestyles and homes, and the Revolution itself would seek to bring a more "equal" economic structure, which meant, in effect, that the rich were stripped of their possessions.
In the play, the cherry orchard itself is the most obvious symbol for the "old ways" of the gentry being "chopped down" to make way for the new, modern Revolutionary thought.
For more on this topic, please follow the links to the Enotes Study Guide on The Cherry Orchard.
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