ESSAY – THE THEME OF THE PAST IN « THE CHERRY ORCHARD »
« The Cherry Orchard » is a play that deeply deals with the theme of the past. Indeed, characters are strongly linked with their past and some of them are still stuck in their memories. In addition, the Cherry Orchard represents remembrance and many other symbols refer to the past as well.
Characters have a privilegedlink with the past, particularly thanks to their memories. The first scene of the play takes place in the nursery, although there are not any child-characters, which gives a nostalgic atmosphere. As the play begins, there is already a reference to a lost past, and the fact that adults still go in the nursery shows how difficult it is to move on and to break with the past. Consequently, evenbefore the reader knows everything about each character, he can guess that they do not cope easily with their present. Indeed, most characters refuse to evolve and don’t realize that life goes on. They are eager to stay in the comfort of an idyllic past in order to forget their sufferings from the present.
Some characters are really attached to everything that represents their past and brings up amemory. For example, in the first act, when Gayev sees the bookcase, he is over-excited and joyful to have found a connection with his memories. He was extremely touched and talked on the verge of tears : “most esteemed bookcase” ; “I salute your existence” … Gayev’s reaction is exaggerated and childish, so it shows that he gives an extremely great value to things concerning his past. Furthermore, hereacts the same way he would have reacted before, which shows that he didn’t mentally evolve.
Throughout the book, most characters reveal a part of their lives by telling the story of their childhood, an event that they went through which influenced the rest of their lives, the people they met… All these personal revelations bring memories in the center of the play.
II] THE CHERRY ORCHARDThe Cherry Orchard is most of the time described in good and valuable terms : “something even remarkable – then it’s our cherry orchard” ; “there’s even a reference to this orchard in the encyclopaedia” … It is shown as something majestic, of an unbelievable beauty. The Orchard is a symbol of a wealthy and profitable past, an ideal period that disappeared a long time ago : “in the old days … theyused to make jam out of them” ; “there was money then” ; “they knew the recipe in those days” , “no one remembers it” …
Furthermore, Ranyevskaya considers the Orchard as what remains from her childhood, her family, her happiness. It is one of the rare things that still exist and testify that her past and her youth are not completely dead. This is why Ranyevskaya and her brother are fiercelyopposed to the destruction of the cherry orchard. It is a way to protect their identity since the orchard represents a whole family, a symbol of their existence and cut it down would mean to lose a heritage.
Ranyevskaya seems to have a certain obsession for the past. She lives in an illusionary world and constantly struggles in order to stay in an idyllic past, shetries her best to forget the present as she has to cope with a tragic reality (bankrupt, losing the cherry orchard, her lover’s abuse…).She attempts to flee her real situation by staying stuck in her comfortable past. In her mind, she still lives in the past, but even physically, she has not changed. She has exactly the same appearance as before : “Mama’s exactly the same as she was” ; “she hasnot changed at all” …
In addition, all her reactions are exaggerated. She is enthusiastic, joyful about thinking about her memories : “I’m like a little girl again” ; “just the same as before” … However, in contrast, she has no reactions when she has to deal with information concerning the present, she’s only interested with the past.
Following the example of Ranyevskaya, Gayev is...
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