The Cherry Orchard
Essay 2
Write a 4-5 page paper discussing a particular problem within the play “The Cherry Orchard.”
You are to develop a well thought out opinion and to support it with evidence from the text
itself. Be sure you clearly state and develop your thesis. Avoid plot summary and be sure to fully
explain your thoughts. It is strongly recommended that you choose from the topics below as
the quality of the discussion and thesis will heavily influence your grade. Please use MLA
format although note that for this essay you should not include a works cited page.
1. Madame Ravensky (Lyubov Andreyevna) in Act III responds to Trofminov, “What truth?
You see where the truth lies, but I seem to have lost my sight, I see nothing. You settle
every great problem so boldly, but tell me, my dear boy, isn’t it because you’re young—
because you haven’t yet understood one of your problems through suffering? You look
forward boldly, and isn’t it that you don’t see and don’t expect anything dreadful
because life is still hidden from your young eyes?” Discuss this quote as it relates to her
character, the play and what it suggests about trauma and aging. Trauma shapes the
behavior of those who endure it and psychologists have analyzed and catalogued key
behaviors that make victims of trauma less functional or make them function in an
altered way. It has also been said that some adults are like children (Gaev) and some
young people are old before their time. Discuss how traumatic experiences are related
to mental aging.
2. How does money change people? Tracking someone’s checking account or paying
attention to someone’s spending habits can reveal a great deal about a person’s
character. Money has also been linked to control, class and freedom. Discuss the
metaphor of money in the context of the play. How does a lack of money or excess of it
change characters?
3. In Act One, Ranevsky thinks she sees her mother in the cherry orchard. At the end of Act Two,
Trofimov talks of "faces" gazing at he and Anya from the leaves and trunks of the trees.
Compare and contrast these two "visions", discussing what they tell us about each character and
that character's attitude towards the orchard. How do you interpret the orchard? Ranevsky sees
the orchard as beautiful and interesting, to Trofimov it is a symbol of Russia's oppressive past
and the dehumanization caused by families such as Ranevsky's through the institution of
serfdom. Gaev sees the orchard as a symbol of status since it is mentioned in an encyclopedia.
Which representation of the orchard are we left with?
4. Many of the most important and traumatic events in the play—Grisha's drowning, the sale of
the orchard, Ranevsky's suicide attempt—either happen before the play's action or off-stage.
Why do you think Chekhov would stage some of the most dramatic events outside the confines
of the play itself? What effect does this have on the play? Why does Chekhov deliberately make
this a play devoid of action?
5. Discuss the role of music in The Cherry Orchard. How does it affect the mood of the play? Does it
play a role in the play's symbolism?
6. Why does Lyuba Ravensky always flee? Her leaving her homeland was a flight from despair and
grieving as was her flight from Paris. Discuss why this character cannot be present emotionally.
7. Discuss the breakdown of communication in the play. Not listening is why the patrician, middleaged Ranevskaya (Ms. Wiest) and her brother, Gaev (Daniel Davis), are doomed to lose the
estate where they grew up. Not speaking is why Varya (Juliet Rylance), Ranevskaya’s adopted
daughter, and Lopakhin (Mr. Turturro), the peasant turned businessman, will never get married,
though everyone thinks they should. Gaev speaks to furniture and Firs is constantly muttering
phrases no one understands. Explain specifically how not communicating is depicted as