Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

The Cherry Orchard (1903)

Overall Review

GROUP REPORT Novia Megan Pearl Emily Jamie Derrick Herbert

Designed and Complied by BUCK LEE


1.Historical Background

During 1894 - 1904:

- Russia was ruled under the Czar, Nicholas II, He proudly repeated the autocracy system.

- He had the absolutely power to rule over the country. No one was dared to object him.

- He was indecisive, conservative, deceitful, so he failed to gain the support from the inhabitants.

- During that time, many people were suffering form the poor living standard…especially the people from the lower social classes.

- Social discontent among the public…or even some labor union organized the demonstration.

- He promised that he would carry out the reform programs. However, he broke his promise again.

- The Czar Dynasty was in crisis.


Russia started the industrialization in the last decades of the 19th century. There was an rapidly industrial growth in Russia…… and the industrialization in Russia had created two new social classes; the capitalists and the workers. During that period, the workers have to suffering from:

i) Heavy labors

ii) Badly treated

iii) Long-working hours

iv) Low wages salary

v) Poor living environment

vi) Dangerous working environment.

vii) Heavy taxes

The spread of the Marxism

The idea of Marxism (by Karl Marx) had spread to the Russia during the 19th century. The Marxists in the Russian were mainly from the working class, because Marxism was suit in their circumstances and furthermore, they believed that the Marxism can create a utopia, gradually, the Marxism had spread through the whole Russia and to a certain extend, the Drama, Cherry Orchard can also reflect the idea of the Marxism.


Karl Marx proclaimed that all previous society is the history of class struggle, for example, Lord and the slave, patrician and the plebeian, employer and employee, etc. The society will become classless when the productivity has grown far enough for everyone in the society. And Furthermore, He pointed out that the labour-power was unique all the productive factors. However, the benefits of products were transferred to the Capitalists and the working classes just allowed sharing the limited advantages from the productivity, He believed that all these evils should be solved through communism. He encouraged the lower classes to overthrow the social system, and form a classless society, all the surplus-productivities; profits should belong to everyone in the country. In the drama, we also can find out some plots that were reflecting the history background and idea of Marxism. There are some obvious examples:

1. (P.1343) Lopohin asked Madame to cut down the cherry orchard and lease for summer villas in order to earn more from it. Here, Lopahin maybe represented the lower classes, and Madame represented the Czar or the government. And he was asking for the reformation, and create a better living standard.

2. (P.1365) again, Lophin is represented the lower classes, he picked the keys, it means that the lower classes took over the power from the upper social classes, ( eg. Working class vs Noble) It was a kind of class struggle between the upper and lower classes, that was coincided with the Marxism.

3. The cut down of the cherry orchard = the overthrown of the autocratic social system.


2. Russian Theater (1894-1905)


Chekhov's play "The Cherry Orchard" was first performed in Russia in 1904.The theater in Russia, at 1894-1905, was beginning to take on different meaning. It began to grow in its popularity, as the whole role of theater itself was beginning to change. There were many changes in the social life of Russia during these years. This "new middle class" was beginning to rise socially and politically as well. A reactionary time for the country resulted in a reactionary time for the theater. The Revolution of 1905 marked the end of czarist Russia. This had a significant influence on the theater of Russia produced throughout this time period.

A new realistic drama began to take shape and spread throughout Russian theater. Realistic drama created a simple and exact presentation. Realistic themes of drama began to directly reflect the issues currently being portrayed by society. For the first time, not just the lifestyle of luxury was being performed. All lifestyles began to appear in this realistic drama. This time they were the lifestyles of the middle class. By the 19th century there was a new force in the theater: the proletariat.

The Revolution of 1905 brought about changes in almost every cultural aspect of Russia. Theater was really still developing to cater to the changing needs of those in Russia. Middle class comedies began to emerge as did the middle class. These themes reflected "the whole of contemporary Russian life and society."


3.Symbolic Meaning

The Nursery Room

Being a fair place for Lyubov's growing up, the nursery room helps Lubov to build up a happy memory. In the nursery room, Lyubov used to sleep and look out into the orchard, which brought happiness to her childhood. Some years later, when Lyubov grew into her adulthood, she took care of the hurt child suffering from his father's violence-the child betrayed her finally. The nursery room stands for what's old. As time goes by, what's old would slip away and never come back. Maybe what's old is worth being memorized for a long time, so let's keep it as a memory. With the change of outward environment and people around, of course, what used to be would be forced to change. Accompanying cherry orchard's being cut down, the nursery also walked into history.

Firs' symbolic meaning in the play

I think that Firs can represent the Cherry Orchard. In the beginning, when Lubov and Anya came back to Cherry Orchard, the estate was so warm and filled with memories. In that time Firs was healthy and full of energy. Although he's an 87 years old valet, he can still remembers many old things.

When the situation goes worse; Firs' health becomes worse as well. In the end, Cherry Orchard was sold and those trees were cut down; people all left the estate except Firs. They forgot Firs and let him stay in the house alone; he was sick and heartbroken, just like Cherry Orchard. People left Cherry Orchard and gonna have a new life. The old things were substituted by new things, Firs and Cherry Orchard are gonna disappear. In conclusion, they are life community; they exist together and die together.

The cherry orchard

Through the urgency of paying the debt, the cherry orchard aroused the family's attention and the importance has been discussed through the different opinions. The disagreement between the Andreyevna family and Lopahin is a fight for the authority. The cherry orchard may be presented as the loyal classes or the high status that everyone wants to get the hold of. The original owner was quite proud of it and did not want to lose it while the others who did not have it would try to win it. It may be more than a sign of fortune or privileges, but also a symbol for the authority. The attitudes toward the sale of the cherry orchard could be divided into three main views.

The moderate side refused to sale the estate and destroys the beautiful natural scenery of it just for the fun of some summer visitors. Although they could not think of any good ideas that could save them out of this pluge, they still insist refuse to make money by this "rotten" way. They tried their best to save the cherry orchard. However, when they finally realized the unalterable ending and all their efforts were in vain, they accepted the cruel truth and regard the changing as a new beginning. The moderate side could fully represent madame Ranversky, Gaev, and Varya, whom all think the cherry orchard as a remembrance of their youth, happiness and the glory past.

The speculative side is more practical and shows less affection toward humanity.Dopahin belongs to this side. From the beginning he had started the discussion of the unpaid debt and reminded the Andreyevna family that the only way to save their crises and to keep the cherry orchard was to cut down the cherry trees and build summer villas. He never saw the beauty of the orchard and it never occurred to him what the orchard may mean to the Andreyevna family. The cherry orchard was an unpleasant memory for him because he kept brings out the fact that his father used to be a serf and treated badly to the labor in the orchard. Now that he had became a rich man, he could not forget his unpleasant past and him aim his goal at the cherry orchard to get revenge. It seems that he bought the orchard for the fortune it could make him in the future but actually it is also for the revenge he challenge himself to achieve.

The young generation side, like Trovimov thinks the cherry orchard as fearful thing for it used to be place where the slave-owners had the slaves do hard labor for them. And the only way to expiate from the past and to live in the present was by suffering and the never-ending labor. His thought had influenced his lover, Anya, the girl who now longed to leave the house, the cherry orchard, and the fearful past in which of the truth that once they had owned the living souls of others.


4.Sound Effect

I. P: 1355

(Act II) [Suddenly there is a sound in the distance, as it were from the sky - the sound of a breaking harp-string, mournfully dying away.]

This is a hint of the cherry orchard's future: It will be sold. And the author uses the harp's sound to express the sad atmosphere in this scene. Lyubov and others can hear it because actually they know it will be sold but they just do not want to accept it. They just try to convince themselves that it is something else and refuse to discover the truth in their hearts.

II. P: 1373

(Act IV) [A sound is heard that seems to come from the sky, like a breaking harp-string, dying away mournfully. All is still again, and there is heard nothing but the strokes of the ax far away in the orchard.]

Compare to the similar description in Act II, this is an announcement of the result of cherry orchard: It is gone. And the same harp's sound proves the previous prediction. The cherry orchard will never restore its original view. What still left is the loneliness and desolation of the vanishment of past memory. The strokes of the ax represent the bight and uncertain future is coming step by step, but the old time is also going into history step by step.


5. Staging--Performance in Class


Our group think that it would be fun if we can present this play " The Cheery Orchard" in different situations and characters. We tried to find people of different areas that we think can act those roles out with success. We tried three situations and list them as following:

Political Situation Celebrity Our Freshman Class
Madame: 李登輝 Madame: 歸亞蕾 Madame: Amy
Lopahin: 陳水扁

Lopahin: 葉智成


Lopahin: Cristina
Varya: 李遠哲 Varya: 茱莉亞蘿柏茲/茱莉弗絲特 Varya: Vivian
  Anya: 郝斯嘉 Anya: Jamie
  Firs: 郎雄 Gaev: David
    Firs: Clark


This play "The Cherry Orchard" took place in Russia in the year of 1903 to 1904. Because of the time gap and the geographical distance, it is kind of hard for we Taiwanese teenagers of the 21st Century to really put ourselves in the shoes of the play to totally understand it, feel its inner meaning, and be moved with its deepgoing plot.

Therefore, our group tried to represent this play in Taiwanese style. The similar plot with Taiwanese scenes, background, and language are hopefully to help all the class relating this play with their life and really feel the delicate of this play.

Our cast and the main idea we would like to express in the script are as following.


First Generation (守舊,拒絕面對現實,採沉浸於歡樂回憶中麻痺自己)

Second Generation (了解事態嚴重性,無實質行動去改變)

Third Generation (認清並接受事實,積極面對,向前瞻望)



Main Idea:表現出為逃避傷心地,久居台北的罔市重回故鄉見到景物依舊的興奮 之情…….包括對尿壺,香蕉園,家鄉菜太監雞的回憶.




Main Idea: 藉由大伯數次陳述世事變遷的殘酷現實面(例: 阿土伯之死…香蕉園欠收…巨額債務),反襯出罔市故意逃避現實的消極態度…

(例:數次轉移話題…佯裝鎮定不以為意) 此時志明亦出現,極力游說罔市賣香蕉園蓋大樓以還債務.

Sound: 眾人對於債物擔心的口氣與罔市歡愉沉醉的語氣成明顯反比


Setting: 客廳中

Main Idea: 由阿嬌與阿花的對談中得知罔市行為如故,未意識家境轉變,花錢如流水….

.(例:吃牛排監持品質….吃雞選品種….鮑魚燕窩依舊) 也得知罔市之所以離開台南是因為逃避次子和男孫被砂石車碾死的殘酷事實……



Setting: 院前小廣場;辦桌

Main Idea: 罔市仍奢華的辦桌宴全村,請電子花車慶團圓,絲毫不願面對欠債的窘態………

此日同時也是大伯和志明去法拍現場買回香蕉園的日子……. 罔市擔心遲遲未歸的大伯……阿嬌於是提供"辛巴豆"和相命當娛興節目……...

彼時香蕉園早已落入志明手中.. 他們的歡愉奢侈的辦桌為知香蕉園已不復存在的事實是這個act最主要想表現的反諷…..




Main Idea: 此段中,

First Generation表現出傷痛.不捨依戀之情…



Third Generation 則表現出面對現實,規劃未來,積極像新生活看的一面….



6. Personal Reflection


Although the author considered the play as a comedy, I rather think of it as a tragedy. It is sad how the family had to yield for the cruel reality. Somehow I don't blame Lopahin for the awful thing he done to the family. Because he had been raised in a practical place where the wealthy ones get the right to own the other's soul. Maybe that's why he had worked from day to night just to be one of the people with privileges. If I were Madame Ranevsky, I think that instead of crying over the subject, I would go and get a job. And encouraged my daughters to find a decent job as well. Then maybe after the cherry orchard was sold, we would at least have some money to support us to find another place for us to settle in. I think the ending is an open ending which dose not limited our imaginations. And if I were to finish the story, I would make them open a small shop and earn their living by their labor. Maybe then, Madame Ranevsky would not spend her money so careless. After a few years, they all found the love of their live and decided to get marry at the same day, August 22nd. Trofimov married Anya while Varya really did meet someone rich and they went on traveling through every holly spot in the world and decided never to come back. Luybov married the man who robbed her but was willing for forgiveness. Gaev married their next-door neighbor and all of them lived happily, ever, after!


Some classmates said that it's a boring play, but I don't think so. The emotion in this play is more exquisite than other plays we've read. Although the whole play seems to be established by the conversation between people and people, we still can see the changes and conflicts obviously. New generation substitutes old generation is an avoidable thing; it's hard to choose when you don't want to part with those old, sweet memories but the new things may bring you a brand new future. So what should be kept and what should be thrown away is an important life course for everyone to learn.


In my opinion, the author used a big change, which referred to sell the handed down property to delicately presented different types of reactions, attitudes, and personality of each character. As a whole, I think that the old generation (e.g.: Madame and Firs) tended to soak themselves in wonderful old day memories and were those who were the saddest while the orchard was sold out. However, Madame tended to avoid facing the reality while Firs himself faced the music, took the fact, and sorrowfully thought of himself as a good for nothing who faded as time just like the destiny of the old cherry orchard.

The second generation, however, were more practical, easily to accept the cruel fact and start a hopefully new life by taking concrete actions. Like Varya planed to work as a housekeeper in Ragulins instead of weeping over it only. Anya also said that she's glad that a new life began. And I think I am more like the young generation because when things happened to me, I would "have to" accept that and tried to find a way out. It is okay to cry over this but staying in the sorrow mood is of no use, looking forward with hope is the only way to carry on. After all, life goes on and on and I still have to live on. Therefore, I agreed with the second generation's act more personally.


If I were a character in this drama, I will choose to sell the cherry orchard. It will be better to the family and society to do so, because there is no progress if there is no change. If I reluctantly reserve the cherry orchard, it will not only makes me fall in poverty, but also becomes an obstruction to the society to go forward. But I will also feel very sad and not willing to sell it, because after all, here was the place I grew up, and it has the happiest and most wonderful memories I have. Yet I have no other choice if I want to survive in this changing society, though it may seems cruel but it is impossible for a person to live only with memory, therefore, to consider to the reality, it is necessary to sell the cherry orchard. However, besides grieving, I will try to do something that can help me remembering the memory of cherry orchard, such as: take some pictures for the cherry orchard, the old house, and those valets. By this way, I can step forward but still keep those wonderful memories of the past in my mind, and these memories can help me to compete my life.


If we look deeper to the play, we can find out more symbols in terms of history or whatever.


Lopahin, Yashal are the characters whose stand for the lower social classes. They were hoping for the reforms:

i) Lopahin is always sought for changes in the "Cherry Orchard".

ii) Yasha, he feels discontented to the present, he is expecting for a new life. (Page 1369, he wants to go Paris)

iii) Madame, Anya, Varya, and Gaev those people are stand for those upper social classes.

iv) The action is stand for the revolution.

v) Gaev, feeling the bookcase, the bookcase is represented the old system.

Here, we can see that the one who is in the higher social position (Gaev) is praising for the old social class system (old bookcase)

Furthermore, the play is somewhat similar to Darwinism, let we explain by simile. Now let's imagine that Madame, Gaev, Lopahin are creatures.

Gaev, Madame = Wolves

Lopahin = Tiger

Their properties = their power

Cherry Orchard = Prey (take it as a deer)

Auction = battle between the tiger and the wolves

Wolves (Madame and Gaev) has hunt the prey ( the cherry orchard). However, they are too old and weak (in debts). They are disable to protect their prey from the strong tiger (Lopahin). The tiger has defeated them in the battle (Auction), and the strong tiger drove them away from the deer (Cherry Orchard). So the tiger became the owner of the deer and satisfy his stomarch.


In my opinion, "The Cherry Orchard" implies a series of changes and what's old and worthless should be abandoned as time goes by and what's new would be alive naturally. At first, the cherry orchard stood for how wealthy Lyubov was because having a large land with plants on it and keeping it for years was not easy at that time. Nevertheless, with Lyubov's wasting money, her income couldn't support her expresses, so she owed a debt that she had to sell the cherry orchard for the mortgage. At this time, the cherry orchard gradually turned to a symbol of savior to save the family's life. It is the rest thing that was valuable to exchange the finance to improve the terrible situation. Eventually, when the cherry orchard was sold, its value disappeared. Originally, it had cherries every year. Whether people bought cherries or not, the trees bloom still. They existed in their own value. But now, they were destined to be cut down and the land was to be built to be villas, and the quiet place might be full of visitors and people who didn't belong to the place. Suddenly, the cherry orchard became worthless because it would die. The cherry orchard would collapse and was used for purpose of financial benefits. What we can know in "The Cherry Orchard" is the bad regulation in the family. Reasonably, there should be difference between masters and servants, especially in the way they speak. The servants should respect their masters when they talked anyway. So far as I am concerned, they talked as if they stood on the same position. I don't regard it as polite enough although the servants restrained themselves after all. I always take it for granted that there must be ranks in the master-servant relationship. For example, Dunyasha's powdering herself often in her daily life makes me uneasy. Why could a servant powder her face so often? Needn't she do her work? It represents the situation in decline in the fading family like the Chinese novel-紅樓夢. What does good to the family is to kick out what's out of time and go ahead to create a new style of life.


It seems that everyone is an independent individuality. We have our inner space where no one can interpose. We have our own thought and feelings. And we can do whatever we like without interposition. Whereas, we take a part in the whole society. Inevitably, it would have great impact as long as we live with people and have implication with others. The influence is insensible but far-reaching.

Every event happened in the world would have effect. The things, which surrounded us necessarily influence us, and so do the Russian in 1894-1905 who was affected by the end of czarist Russia. The characters in "The Cherry Orchard" are the mirrors of the people that time. We can see the obvious digenesis, which is especially evident at the quick changes of the society.

It remind me a famous novel of China called 京華煙雲. It was written by 林語堂. The setting of this story is at the beginning of the establishment of Republic of China. A big family in Beijing, which used to be the aristocracy, tried to face their decline under the changes of the society. We can also see the clash of the social life and transvalue of the generations.

It sounds grievous that we are just inevitably involved in our society. But aware the truth could also make us restudy our attitude toward life.