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The Cherry Orchard - The Struggle
Anton Chekhov’s play The Cherry Orchard introduces readers to a pre-Revolution Russian family faced with the impending sale of their estate, the Cherry Orchard. The main character in the play is the owner of the Cherry Orchard, Lyubov Andreyevna. It is in the play that Lyubov must ultimately decide whether to allow her Cherry Orchard to be cut down to make room for villas or to sell the entire estate to pay off her debts. It is her unconditional love for both the Cherry Orchard and what it symbolizes to her that allows her to put the estate up for sale rather than have the Cherry Orchard cut down.
Although she is a member of the Russian upper class, Lyubov is hopelessly out of touch with reality and very irresponsible when in comes to finances. She often throws money around as though there are no consequences to her actions. After her husband died and her boy was tragically drowned at the Cherry Orchard, she fled to Paris and bought a villa, which she soon had to sell to pay off her debts. Lyubov dines lavishly and tips handsomely when in all actuality she hasn’t a dime to spare. She throws parties and hires orchestras she knows she can not pay for. It is this type of behavior that put Lyubov deep enough into debt to where her beloved estate has been put at risk.
To Lyubov the Cherry Orchard means so much more than the acres and acres of beautiful cherry trees and rivers; so much more than the piece of land that was featured in the encyclopedia. To her it represents her sense of nostalgia, a longing for the past. It is the place where her grandparents lived. Her mother and father lived there as well. It reminds Lyubov of her youth. When she looks at the cherry trees she does not just see branches and blossoms, she sees a time when she walked through the orchard with her mother as a young girl. She says “I used to sleep here when I was little…and here I am like a child again.” Lyubov’s innocence also remains a part of the Cherry Orchard, for as a child she did not own serfs or squander her family’s money. Even though the Cherry Orchard invokes thoughts of her lost husband and son, she still treasures it.
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Because the Cherry Orchard means so much to Lyubov, it is especially hard for her to come to grips with the fact that she has two options neither of which suit her liking. Because of all the debt that she acquired so irresponsibly, it has become inevitable that her relationship with the Cherry Orchard will never be the same. Lyubov will only be able to maintain ownership of the Cherry Orchard if she has the cherry trees cut down and builds summer villas in their place. Her other option would be to sell the Cherry Orchard. Since she has lived on the estate all her life and loves it so dearly, Lyubov never even considers cutting down the Cherry Orchard. In fact she believes that to be a “vulgar” notion. Not only would the land that belonged to her family be trodden on by hundreds of visitors every summer, but the orchard that held her childhood memories as well as those of the rest of her family would exist no longer. Because Lyubov refuses to insult the integrity of the estate by means of summer villas, the Cherry Orchard ultimately goes up for sale. Lyubov can live with this only because she assures herself that the condition of the estate will be maintained. In essence, Lyubov cares more about the Cherry Orchard than herself and her family. If she was more concerned for herself and her family then she would have built the villas.
Unfortunately for Lyubov, her hopes to keep the Cherry Orchard intact were dashed when she found out that Lopahin bought it and planned to have the villas built anyway. She was so crushed when she learned of this that she could barely stand up. She wept bitterly, consoled only by the fact that she could return to Paris and that she and her daughter, Anya, would be able to begin a new life together. Had Lyubov not loved the Cherry Orchard so dearly, she would have allowed the cherry trees to be cut down and the villas built, but because she did love it so, she risked her own welfare to keep it intact. Although the Cherry Orchard ultimately came down anyway, where it not for Lyubov’s love it would have never even had a chance.