How can I write an essay about Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

You go about writing an essay about a play the same way as for a poem or another piece of literature. First read the play and watch a version, if you can find one, but be sure to reference the written play in your paper, as sometimes directors make changes...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

You go about writing an essay about a play the same way as for a poem or another piece of literature. First read the play and watch a version, if you can find one, but be sure to reference the written play in your paper, as sometimes directors make changes in pursuit of their own point. You will want, of course, to understand the plot of the play, which is, as you know, what happens, but you will want to focus most of your attention on the theme, or, in other words, what Chekhov is trying to say about society and human behavior. You can also talk about the tone of the play, meaning how it makes you feel. Does it make you laugh or cry, feel uplifted or sad? Why? 

Most literature is, broadly speaking, about five themes: love, loss, death, suffering, and identity. Do any of these themes jump out at you in The Cherry Orchard?

Many critics have understood the play to be about identity and loss, about how people can lose everything because of an inability to adjust to a changing world, in this case one in which the serfs are free and aristocratic families no longer have the wealth they once did. If you were to focus on this theme (and there are many others to choose from), you would go through the play and gather quotes to support this point. What do characters say and do that shows they are caught in the past and not facing reality? Gathering these quotes is all important, because once you make a statement, you need to be able to back it up with a quote from the play.

When you have your material gathered, write your thesis, which should be an opinion. Be bold: at this point you have gathered the evidence to back yourself up. Pretend you are a lawyer arguing your case and lay out your charge (the thesis) and back it up with your evidence (quotes from the play). Perhaps you are attacking the family and saying they don't live in reality. State that and then say why. First they do A (quote to back it up), then B (quote), then C (quote). Finally sum up and leave the reader with an added thought. How might the situation in late 19th century Russia relate to today? Also, look at the eNotes guide to this play: it has some good information! Best of luck! 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team