Analysis Of Notes From The Underground And The Cherry Orchard

November 7, 2020 by Essay Writer

Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard (1903) was the last play that Chekov wrote and arguably the best in terms of the underlying meaning. The three-act play is set in1900’s Russia and is about the social change happening during the brink of the Russian revolution. The characters in this play range from the poorest or poor to the richest of rich and swap social classes throughout. This play easily relates to modern times across the world and even in America with the constant shifts in modern social classes. Another work that illustrates the portrayal of social class/change is Notes from the Underground written by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1864). This novel is widely considered as the first existentialist novels and is presented by an unnamed bitter narrator. The first part of the story gives a good look into the narrator being in the lowest of the classes in the 1800’s. The main character, The Underground Man is a very reserved lower-class person who shelters himself and only maintains about one close relationship throughout the novel. A lot of the characters considered The Underground Man as “nothing” and treat him as if he does not exist. These two readings accurately demonstrate social classes in previous times as well as providing a look into how these classes were shaped for the future.

Chekov does not provide a lot of background in the beginning of the play as to who the characters are and who owns what, but slowly characters social classes are introduced. It begins with the characters at the cherry orchard, which Ranevsky owns. Ranevsky had previously been in Paris for the last five years, that gives the introduction of which social class that Ranvesky falls into. She owns the orchard and can live in Paris for five years, so she is a very wealthy woman. This aligns with modern times because people who can travel and those who own a lot of land are still considered very wealthy people. Dunyasha is a character that is brought up multiple times during the play and she is the maid at the estate, so she falls into the lower class of these times. Anya is the daughter of Ranvesky and has a manservant, therefore putting her into the wealthier category also. Throughout the play each social class is explicitly implied and helps the reader think about possible ways that those roles can be played today. The biggest difference between how social classes were represented then versus now is that in the 1900’s it was a lot harder to move up in classes and it was odd when wealthier people fell down. This is what happened in The Cherry Orchard, Ranvesky blew through her money and ended up losing the beloved family estate and gigantic orchard. Lopakihn, who clearly has some money to his name since he offered 50,000 rubles to buy the orchard at auction, ended up buying the orchard and cut down all the trees to make room for cottages that would make him more money.

Act three of this play accurately represents modern times more than the rest of the play. Today, there is still beloved family land, but most people are willing to give that up or give up something on that land in order to move themselves up the social and financial ladder. People are were not able to swap classes as easily as today. In today’s times, something as simple as buying a new fancy car can help you move up a bit, but in the 1900’s land was held at the highest value and proved how wealthy you really were. Materialistic things were obviously important then but not as important as they are today. Society now focuses on who has the most or biggest “stuff”. Chekov does a very good job at giving the play a realistic aspect about how social classes were viewed from the outside versus what was really going on the inside. Ranvesky looked so rich and powerful to everyone on the outside but she was too busy giving her money away and going broke just to make her look like a better person. Many people also do this today, they are only worried about how they are perceived by people on the outside and by having the most stuff, then end up going broke and moving down a class while they were trying to make it look like they had moved up.

Notes from the Underground is a novel also set in Russia, but in the 1860’s. The narrator who does not have a name and goes by “Underground Man” begins the first part of the novel by telling the reader that he is a lonely, poor, unattractive man, but he is highly intelligent. This begins to give a look into what social class he is in in his own mind but maybe not how society necessarily perceives him to be in. The entire novel he is very focused on making it clear that he believes in exercising his free will whether it harms or helps him. Simonov is a former schoolmate of Underground Man and has maintained a relationship with him, even though underground man believes that he finds the relationship burdensome. There are not a lot of details about Simonov so it is unknown what social class he may fall into. Another one of Underground Man’s former schoolmates is Zverkov, who is a successful officer in the army. This ranks him in a high social class where he is a very respected person. This is very similar to how military officials are perceived in modern times. Anyone who is in the military is perceived as automatically in a higher social class than the average person. The social classes in this novel are not as out there as they are in The Cherry Orchard. This novel is more indirect about the characters when it comes to explaining who they are as people and how they fall on the social scale.

Overall, both novels relate to modern social class, but they do it in very different ways. The Cherry Orchard explains more about the characters and their backgrounds. Notes from the Underground does it in a more discrete way by just telling about character actions. Both novels have similarities as to characters acting the same way or doing the same things, but The Cherry Orchard does a better job at having realistic classes relating to modern times.


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