The Cherry Orchard: Social Change

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Social Change: Pig in a Bun Shop

Unlike other European countries that no longer used the feudal system, Russia allowed serfdom until Alexander II issued the Emancipation of Serfs in 1861, freeing serfs and allowing them opportunity to flourish. The emancipation brought rise to the middle class but impoverished the aristocrats. The play, The Cherry Orchard, begins with Lopakhin and Ranevsky waiting for Madame Ranevsky to return to her family’s estate. Lopakhin is a neighbor of Ranevsky. He was born a serf, but utilized the emancipation, and became a free wealthy business man. Lopakhin informs the audience that he has not seen Madame Ranevsky in five years and goes into a detailed story of her kind acts when he was beaten by his father. The party arrives from the train station and reminisces on the times that they previously spent on the cherry orchard. From the very beginning, the play focuses on memories and change. As Lopakhin remembers Madame Ranevsky’s charitable act fifteen years prior, he stumbles on the word “peasant.” He says he was a peasant, but in retrospect, he is still a peasant. Lopakhin undergoes a significant class change within his society during his lifespan. He starts as a poor serf and by the end of the play he ends up being the owner of the estate at which he worked for most of his life. He is the epitome of a successful newly freed serf, but he is still self conscious of his class status. Although he considers himself a “rich man,” he is still a peasant at heart. He has fancy clothes and an estate, but is not literate or well traveled. He humbly points out the he “can’t make head or tail of [the book he is reading.]” Lopakhin has changed, his lifestyle has changed, his wardrobe has changed, but he carries the personas of a peasant. Lopakhin is excited for the family’s homecoming, but deep down he knows things have become different. He no longer works for the family and his only ties to Madame Ranevsky are through memories of his past...
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