Jan 12, 2018 in Analysis

Cherry Orchard

Chekhov's works are considered to be insightful of human psychology, people's hopes and losses. In this respect Cherry Orchard is a layered piece of literature and drama, which cannot defined by the cannons of the single genre. According to the critics' universal opinion and treatment of the author himself, the play can be most adequately classified as a tragicomedy, having both comic and tragic elements. Personally, I believe that it is more genuinely tragic, and that comic elements just give dimension and realism to the tragic life situations.

Apparently, the play raises serious themes such as mortality, loneliness, and inconsistencies of love. Since death is one of the key symbols, it gives the atmosphere of fragility and gloom, which still cannot be tolerated by any person for a long time. The heroine of the play, Lubov, has faced many losses in life, so she continues moaning over her late husband and child. Yet, the laws of life are such that it is impossible for people to stick to the state of grief for too long. Life is versatile, complex, and there is an element of the comic in each tragedy. Lubov understands that and is ironic of herself and the whole situation, and philosophic of the decay that surrounds her. Even the extinction of the cherry orchard, which is the main symbol of dying in the play, is not singularly tragic. It also evokes laughter and relief because sometimes even destruction is better than stagnation. Yet, it is essentially painful to lose old values and stability; this is why there is a key note of tragedy in the tone of the work, while comic elements just emphasize that main tone. There is also a philosophical question, which reveals fear of the future that all characters have as a result of their little cozy world's destruction:

TROFIMOV. Who knows? And what does it mean you'll die? Perhaps a man has a hundred senses, and when he dies only the five known to us are destroyed and the remaining ninety-five are left alive (Chekhov 2.102).

Thus, the play's focus on death presupposes its serious tone, yet because death is a too complex subject to be taken seriously by human mind for a long time, this accounts for laughter and comic elements.

Speaking of laughter, it should be noted that it originates from farce and absurdity that are depicted in the play, so it is not a light-hearted humor. People are essentially lonely and mortal, and that makes them struggle in an awkward way. Each character is comic in his or her own way because of their special traits, such as gestures, or manners, or inconsistency between words and actions. As a critic points out, there are several methods that the author uses, but they are mostly based on contrast to create comic effects like "juxtaposition of contrasting attitudes" and "undercutting what is said by what is done" (Forster, n.d., p.130). Thus, for instance, the seriousness of Gaev's speech is undermined by the fact that he actually addresses a bookcase, or when Charlotte continues her profound monologue by eating a cucumber. The contrast between the high and the low, the existential and the mundane is used by the author to contribute to the genre of tragicomedy.

Thus, in my opinion, the essence of the play is still a tragedy because of the themes raised and the losses that characters face in the course of their lives. Yet, the elements of laughter and irony are introduced to give another dimension to the work and to make it realistic, showing that life is both comic and tragic.

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