Who is Madame Ranevsky in The Cherry Orchard?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The biggest flaw of Madame Ranevsky's character in this excellent play is her complete inability to "move with the times" and recognise how her Russia is changing in so many different ways. When it looks as if she is going to be losing her estate and orchard, she shows herself to be characterised by a kind of paralysis that does not help her to save it. Although she is kind and also generous, she shows that she doesn't know how to manage either her money or the complexities of adult existence. Even though she is facing the imminent loss of her property, she continues to spend money freely, even lending money to her neighbour when her finances are in such dire straits.

Madame Ranevsky is dominated by nostalgia. She can only see the orchard as it was in her idealised childhood. Ironically, although she is deeply distressed by the sale, she finds that she actually experiences a sense of liberation when she is freed from all of the worries of managing such big estate. In her character, Chekhov paints a human face representing the many landowners who lost their land at this time in Russia.

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