Text and Sub Text.
A lot of what is conveyed to the audience is not contained within what is actually said but within the sub-text of both the speech and the stage directions. A good example of this is in Ranyevskaya’s attitude towards the Cherry Orchard. It is clear that Ranyevskaya has a great love of the Cherry Orchard, yet she refuses to talk about its fate, often changing the subject when Lopahkin attempts to bring it up. This shows the audience both her fear at losing yet another precious thing of hers as well as her very conservative views on life. She does not believe in change, as she is happy with the way things are and therefore sees no necessity for change, thinking that if she does not talk about the event, it will not take place. However, what is conveyed to the audience is Ranyevskaya’s lack of understanding that change will take place regardless.
Chekhov uses a lot of imagery in the play, particularly natural imagery. The Cherry Orchard represents life, more specifically the life, survival and decline of the aristocratic class. At the beginning the trees are in full blossom, whereas at the end they are being cut down and destroyed. This highlights the removal of the Upper Class to make way for a new middle class of businessmen like Lopahkin. Another example of natural imagery is in Act two. The Act opens in late afternoon sunshine. Throughout the Act, the sun gradually sets until the stage and the actors are left in darkness. This again represents the fate of Ranyevskaya and her family and the way they live at this moment, as well as showing the overall confusion and destruction of their false hope. This immediately leads into Act three in which the Cherry Orchard is sold at auction very ironically to Lopahkin a new businessman of serf origin.
There is also an element of Biblical imagery within the play. Varya appeals to the mercy of God repeatedly whilst Ranyevskaya talks frequently about judgement and sin. This is representative of the superstition amongst people of this time.
This emphasises the human qualities of the characters, which is especially important in naturalistic theatre where everything must be believable. An example of this is in Fir’s use of the phrase “silly billy” showing his closeness to the characters he works for as well as his elderly senility. It also highlights his misunderstanding of what has actually been said, which reflects his misunderstanding of the way things are now, how they are going to change and his wish for things to remain the same, because in this he feels secure. Another example of the use of idioms is apparent in the nickname of Yephikodov; “disasters by the dozen”, which makes him a figure of fun. In both cases use of idiomatic speech evokes sympathy from the audience for each character.
Philosophical and Conceptual Language
Written just a year before the first Russian Revolution of 1905, tensions between the lower class workers, the new middle class businessmen, and the antiquated aristocrats was heightening. As more and more people from low backgrounds worked their way up the economic ladder making more and more money, their want for power also greatened. This very much underlines the Cherry Orchard. Lopahkin too has worked his way up and made money, however at the beginning of the play he is quite an unimportant character, he is left behind by the others and apparently forgotten about. The fact that he buys the Cherry Orchard in Act three turns the tables. Ranyevskaya and her family are no longer in the position of power, Lopahkin is. This and other philosophical ideas are very much conveyed in the way both Trofimov and Anya speak, highlighting the need for change and modern thinking in order to survive.