What is some imagery in The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chekhov starts out this play with thematic visual imagery. Some of the most prominent and thematic are the nursery, home and sleep, the cherry orchard, the frost-bitten chill May dawn (at 2 a.m. "It will soon be two. ... It is light already"), and the frosted cherry blossoms. The last stage direction and action also represent a major thematic image. Space limits the examination of these points, but I'll undertake an examination of some points, then you can find your way on others.

Starting at the end, the last stage direction in Act IV describes the last view of the estate with the cherry orchard. Fiers, who is ill, enters the room. A long-time family servant, Fiers has been forgotten and left behind:

FIERS. "They've gone away. [Sits on a sofa] They've forgotten about me.... Never mind, I'll sit here...."

The image of Fiers lying down quietly to await their return, more probably to die, alone in the house where he is a servant represents the change in Russian society. Chekhov presents this change in The Cherry Orchard as a good and needed change. To explain, the neglect of the wealthy has put the estate on the auction block since they refused modern modes of revitalizing it, just as their neglect has put Fiers, and the many similar servants he represents, on the auction block of forgotten worth and abandonment. This powerful image conveys one of Chekhov's most important themes about the changing times in Russia and about how the sentimentality of the wealthy is not sufficient to redeem their neglect.

This ties in with the introductory image of the description of the frost threatened cherry blossoms in the chill May dawn:

EPIKHODOV. There's a frost this morning—three degrees, and the cherry-trees are all in flower.

This image is at once a (1) symbol of the family that will succumb to the chill of the ax leading to subdivided land and a (1) thematic image through which the changing upper class in Russia may be visualized as a frost threatened cherry blossom caught in harsh social and political climates:

EPIKHODOV. I can't approve of our climate. [Sighs] I can't. Our climate is indisposed to favour us even this once.

Read the study guide:
The Cherry Orchard

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