Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Cherry Orchard: Character Analysis

Peter Trofimov
Trofimov is a shabbily dressed "eternal student. '' He was a tutor for Mrs. Ranevsky's son, and the sight of him when she first returns to the cherry orchard brings back terrible memories of her son's death. She remarks that Trofimov has aged badly, which is a veiled reference to his time spent as an inmate in a labor camp for those found guilty of participating in subversive political activities. Trofimov's actions sometimes do not match his words. Remarking that he and Anya are "above love," he is criticized by Mrs. Ranevsky for his outspoken behavior. She ridicules his declaration, and as he storms out, he falls down a flight of stairs.
Chekhov tries to keep Trofimov from being too serious by injecting humor into both the dialogue and his actions. Though he can be outspoken and critical, he is tender and supportive of Anya. He is constantly emphasizing the value of work as the salvation of Russia, and convinces Anya that the whole of Russia is her orchard. Soviet critics after the Russian Revolution of 1917 latched onto the character of Trofimov as a literary hero who exemplifies the ideals of Socialism, often citing his speech describing the trees in the orchard as souls.
Mrs. Ranevsky
Mrs. Ranevsky is an aristocratic woman incapable of adapting to the changing social climate in Russia. When faced with the loss of her beloved orchard and estate, she is incapable of acting to save it. She is a kind and generous woman who is irresponsible when it comes to money and adult life. Though she knows that the orchard is up for auction in August, she continues to go out to lunch, throws a lavish party, and gives a gold piece to a homeless man. Her neighbor, Boris Simeonov-Pishchik, continues to borrow money from her, despite her desperate financial situation. Having fled to Paris from Russia five years before to try to forget the deaths of her little boy and her husband, Mrs. Ranevsky has only succeeded in trading her problems at home for a new set of difficulties. She takes a villain for her lover, and is swindled out of most of her money and then is left by him for another woman. Once back in Russia, she receives telegrams from him begging her to return because he is ill. When the orchard and estate are lost to Lopakhin, she returns to her lover in Paris because she feels the need to take care of him. Rather than living in the present, Mrs. Ranevsky pictures the orchard as it was in her childhood, with her mother walking through its aisles. She is crushed by the sale, but then freed from the worries associated with running such a large estate. Mrs. Ranevsky puts a face on the many wealthy landowners who lost their wealth and power in turn of the century Russia.
Lopakhin
Lopakhin is a wealthy businessman whose grandfather was once a serf on the Ranevsky estate. Though sometimes seen as a calculating opportunist, he loves the Ranevsky family and tries to persuade Mrs. Ranevsky (who helped him as a child) to cut down the orchard to clear land for building country vacation cottages for the rising middle class. He grows increasingly impatient with her as she refuses to see the solution he suggests and does nothing to save the estate. Lopakhin eventually buys the estate at the auction, and in a vulgar display during the ball, he rejoices in owning the estate his family was once forced to serve. Much is made of the fact that Varya loves Lopakhin and that the two should marry, but he is too consumed with making money to propose to her. Lopakhin represents the triumph of vulgarity and ignorance of the middle class over the traditions of nobility and elegance of Czarist Russia.
Dunyasha (doonYAsha)
Dunyasha is the maid in the Ranevsky household who dreams of being an aristocratic lady. She parodies the ladies of the household, and compares herself to them. She must give up her dreams of marrying Yasha (Mrs. Ranevsky's manservant) when he returns to Paris with Mrs. Ranevsky. She agrees to marry Yepichodov instead.
Firs (feers)
Firs is the Ranevsky family's faithful servant who, because of his loyalty to the family, chose to stay after the serfs were freed. Sickly and somewhat senile, he marks the play's most poignant moment when he is locked inside the estate and forgotten. He laments: "Life has slipped away as if l haven't lived."
Leonid (layohNEED) Gayev (GUYev)
Gayev is Mrs. Ranevsky's brother. He is an irresponsible, unkempt man who prefers to play or pretend to play billiards than to find a solution to his family's problems. He is addicted to fruit candies, and talks a great deal—faults pointed out by his family several times in the play. Dreaming up several schemes to save the orchard, Guyev acts on none of them; instead he calls out billiard shots and believes someone will come forward to rescue the family. Like his sister, he imagines the cherry orchard as it was in his childhood, unable to accept that it will soon be sold.
Hiker
The Hiker is a sickly homeless man who begs Mrs. Ranevsky for money. That she is in financial ruin herself and gives the hiker a gold piece emphasizes Mrs. Ranevsky's generosity and her disregard for her own predicament.
Charlotte Ivanovna (eeVANovna)
The governess to both Anya and Varya, Charlotte is a very thin woman whose magic tricks and uncertain parentage add comic elements to the play.
Post Office Clerk
The post office clerk appears as a guest at the ball.
Anya Ranevsky
Mrs. Ranevsky's daughter, Anya, dresses all in white to signify her purity and innocence. Although she loves her home and the orchard that surrounds it, she realizes that all of Russia is her orchard. She looks to the future as an adventure. At seventeen, she is eager to go on with her life and to share it with Peter Trofimov, the eternal student. Anya is the opposite of her sister Varya, and is a youthful, sweet, energetic, young woman looking forward to the future. She attempts to get her aunt, the Countess, to help her family pay off the debt on the orchard, but is ready to face the future without wealth.
Varya Ranevsky
Varya Ranevsky is the adopted daughter of Mrs. Ranevsky. At twenty-four years of age, this daughter of a serf is allied with neither the aristocracy or the servants, but is in a world somewhere in between the two. She wears only black and is very dedicated to her work and to religion. She runs the cherry orchard to the best of her ability while her mother is gone, but is seen as a miser by the servants.
Varya is in love with Yermolay Lopakhin, a wealthy merchant who is more concerned with business than with her. She is heartbroken by his passivity, and by her family's inability to save their home. She openly criticizes her mother's generosity and irresponsibility when it comes to money, yet she has no solution to the problem. Dreaming of entering a convent, by the end of the play Varya has taken a job as a housekeeper at a nearby estate. She is a severe woman who feels ill-at-ease without a task to attend to. She is unable to fight for what she wants—Lopakhin—and instead passively accepts her fate.
Boris Simeonov-Pishchik (seemYOHnovPEEshik)
Simeonov-Pishchik is a landowner who is constantly in debt and asking to borrow money. He expects fate to solve his financial problems, and eventually allows the English to mine his estate in order to pay off his debts. Though he pays Mrs. Ranevsky the money he owes her in the end, it is too late to save the orchard. He does not consider her financial situation when he borrows the money from her, and she is too generous to deny his request.
Stationmaster
The Stationmaster is a fun-loving guest at the ball who dances with the ladies.
Yasha
Yasha is Firs's grandson, but is eager to become more than a manservant. Referred to as a scoundrel by Varya, he plays with Dunyasha's emotions, and schemes to go back to Paris with Mrs. Ranevsky. He also ignores his mother every time she comes to see him, and leaves her waiting outside. He is a self-centered man who cares nothing for anyone but himself.
Simon Yepichodov (Yepikhodov)
Yepichodov is a financial clerk whose ineffectual management leads to the auction of the estate. Nicknamed Twenty-two Calamities, he is constantly plagued by problems (including squeaking boots) and crises. He is in love with the maid Dunyasha, who is in love with Mrs. Ranevsky's manservant Yasha. This love triangle provides some of the comic moments in The Cherry Orchard.

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