Changes In Russia Captured In The Works Of Anton Chekhov

1038 words - 4 pages


Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) was born a year before the emancipation of serfism in Russia took place. Although he was the grandson of a serf, Chekhov was able to attend the medical school at the University of Moscow and become a physician. Chekhov started writing in order to support his family economically, becoming a master in drama and short stories. His literature is characterized by the use of colloquial language which could be understood even by the less educated and recently liberated serfs. Social change is the main theme in ‘The Cherry Orchard’, a four-act play written in 1904. In this play the different characters portray how changes in Russia after the emancipation of 1861 were taking place and although the play is set several years after this, it is clearly seen how the play develops around this event. For peasants, the liberation of 1861 brought different consequences. Not all of them took advantage of their freedom, and for some, their lives were the same after being liberated. In this play, these differences can clearly be seen. A main character of this play is Yermolai Lopahkin. Being son and grandson of serfs, represents the young class of peasants who got advantage of the emancipation and achieved economic success. Also, we have minor characters that represent other side of liberated serfs, who did not have Lopakhin’s opportunities to success after emancipation.

Act 1 takes place in Madame Ranevsky’s state. Lohpakin and Dunyasha, a young servant hopeful to succeed in life, wait for the owner of the Cherry Orchard, Madame Ranevsky and her daughter, Anya, to arrive from Paris, where they have been for five years. In this scene Lophpakin ironically criticizes Dunyasha for wearing fancy clothes and trying to pretend something she is not. Although both grew as liberated serfs, it can be seen how one achieved success while the other was still in the process. Lohpakin shows his honesty and says that although he is rich, he is not an educated person: “...I’m rich, I’ve got pots of money but when you get right down to it, I’m a peasant. I was reading this book, didn’t understand a word...” Lopakhin symbolizes the ‘nouveau rich’ or the new class that emerged from the liberation of serfs. Some people, mainly young men, tried to get advantage of their liberation some going to the cities and searching for opportunities. Migration increased in enormous rates. The number of passports issued to peasants increased from 510 in 1860-70 to 1,282 in the next decade. However, many peasants, although liberated, remained in their state of peasants following the old regime. These men are symbolized by Firs, an old servant for whom freedom was insignificant. He stays loyal, working in the Cherry Orchard as a serf since he had no other opportunities in life. Firs and Lohpakin on one side contrast Madame Ranevsky and Gayef her brother. The first two portraying two different ways in which emancipation affected peasants, and the last two, showing how...

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