The Cherry Orchard
Memory and the Past Theme
Because The Cherry Orchard depicts a changing society, the characters spend a lot of time thinking about how now compares to then. How characters relate to the past determines their investment in the play's major question: will the cherry orchard be saved? As a symbol of the past of the Russian empire, the orchard evokes longing, regret, or disgust – sometimes a combination of all three. Despite the painful resistance of most characters, in the end, a cord to the past is snipped. The cherry orchard is sold, the house is shuttered, and the old servant is left to die.
Questions About Memory and the Past
- Who do you think is the most sentimental and nostalgic character in the play?
- Varya is Lubov's adopted daughter. What is her relationship to the past and how does it differ from Anya's?
- Is there any character in the play unmoved by memories of the past?
Chew on This
Chekhov uses Fiers's senility as a tool of remembrance in the play.
How characters respond to the loss of the cherry orchard defines their dependence on, or freedom from, the weight of the past.