Illustration of a chopped down cherry tree that was cut into logs

The Cherry Orchard

by Anton Chekhov

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Student Question

What is the significance of the falling axe in Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard"?

Quick answer:

The falling axe in Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" symbolizes the destruction of the old aristocratic way of life in Russia. The Ranevsky family's sentimental attachment to the orchard and refusal to adapt to modern demands lead to their financial ruin, marking the end of an era as the orchard is destroyed for middle-class housing.

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Throughout the play, the wealthy businessman Lopakhin has been urging the Ranevsky family to set the orchard to be developed as a middle class housing estate in order to be able to afford to stay in their house on the estate. The sentimental attachment of the family to the cherry orchard, and their refusal to sell it even to save themselves from financial ruin, is emblematic of the failure of the aristocracy to adapt itself to the demands of the modern world. On the other hand, the orchard, like the traditions and manners of the aristocracy is beautiful. When the axe falls, it represents not only the destruction of the orchard, but of the old aristocratic way of life in Russia.

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