Overview of Language in the play. The style of language in the Cherry Orchard is instrumental in establishing the characters, their views and personalities and the overall period of the play. For example, Ranyevskaya and Gayev’s language is very dated, showing their old-fashioned views and reluctance to change, while Trofimov’s language is more modern, showing his forward-thinking.
The servants speak in only a more conversational style, whereas the aristocrats speak more traditionally and formally; this highlights the apparent class divisions that exist both in the play and in the rest of Russia this time. Anya’s style of speech changes throughout the play. In the beginning, she speaks in quite a childish and very formal way to a more reflective and calmly modern style, which reflects the influence of Trofimov on her. Charlotta’s slightly indifferent and strange way of speaking defines her separation from the rest of the characters and her position as a minority.
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Text and SubText. Much of what is conveyed to the audience is not contained within what is said but within the speech’s sub-text and stage directions. An excellent example of this is in Ranyevskaya’s attitude towards the Cherry Orchard. It is clear that Ranyevskaya has a great love of the Cherry Orchard, yet she refuses to talk about its fate, often changing the subject when Lopahkin attempts to bring it up.
This shows the audience both her fear of losing yet another precious thing of hers and her very conservative views on life. She does not believe in change, as she is happy with how things are and therefore sees no necessity for change, thinking that it will not take place if she does not talk about the event. However, Ranyevskaya’s lack of understanding that change will take place regardless is conveyed to the audience.
Imagery. Chekhov uses a lot of imagery in the play, particularly natural imagery. For example, the Cherry Orchard represents life, more specifically the aristocratic class’s life, survival, and decline. In the beginning, the trees are in full blossom, whereas they are being cut down and destroyed at the end. This highlights the removal of the Upper Class to make way for a new middle class of businessmen like Lopahkin. Another example of natural imagery is in Act two. The Act opens in the late afternoon sunshine. Throughout the Act, the sun gradually sets until the stage, and the actors are left in darkness.
This again represents the fate of Ranyevskaya and her family and the way they live at this moment, as well as showing the overall confusion and destruction of their false hope. This immediately leads into Act three, in which the Cherry Orchard is sold at auction very ironically to Lopahkin, a new businessman of serf origin. There is also an element of Biblical imagery within the play. Varya appeals to the mercy of God repeatedly while Ranyevskaya talks frequently about judgement and sin. This is representative of the superstition amongst people of this time.
Idiomatic speech. This emphasizes the characters’ human qualities, which is especially important in the naturalistic theatre where everything must be believable. An example of this is in Fir’s use of the phrase “silly billy,” showing his closeness to the characters he works for as well as his elderly senility.
It also highlights his misunderstanding of what has been said, which reflects his misunderstanding of how things are now, how they are going to change, and his wish for things to remain the same because he feels secure. Another example of idioms is apparent in the nickname of Yephikodov; “disasters by the dozen,” which makes him a figure of fun. In both cases, the use of conversational speech evokes sympathy from the audience for each character.
Philosophical and Conceptual Language. Written just a year before the first Russian Revolution of 1905, tensions between the lower class workers, the new middle-class businessmen, and the old-fashioned aristocrats were heightening. As more and more people from low backgrounds worked their way up the economic ladder, making more and more money, their want for power also greatened. This very much underlines the Cherry Orchard.
Lopahkin too has worked his way up and made money, however at the beginning of the play he is quite an unimportant character, he is left behind by the others and apparently forgotten about. The fact that he buys the Cherry Orchard in Act three turns the tables. Ranyevskaya and her family are no longer in the position of power, Lopahkin is. This and other philosophical ideas are very much conveyed in the way both Trofimov and Anya speak, highlighting the need for change and modern thinking in order to survive.