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Submitted by Rida Hamid

Submitted to Mam Abida Sahi

Topic: Naturalism and Realism: The Cherry Orchard

From the middle of the nineteenth century, the Romantic emphasis on
emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect had given way to a
much more objective and scientific way of examining the human
condition. A number of factors contributed to this:

 A year of revolutions in France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and the

Austrian Empire during the so-called Springtime of the Peoples in
1848 showed that there was a widespread desire for political,
social, and economic reform
 Technological advances in industry and trade led to an increased
belief that science could solve human problems
 The working classes were determined to fight for their rights,
using unionisation and strikes as their principal weapons
 Romantic idealism was rejected in favour of pragmatism
 The common man demanded recognition and believed that the
way to bring this about was through action.

These factors helped fuel the development of two major philosophical

ideas, realism and naturalism, which resulted in a radical shift in
theatrical presentation.

Realism and Naturalism

In literature, the term naturalism means a manner of writing that shows

people, objects and experiences as they really are, it is a form of realism
that particularly focuses on how technology and sciences affect society
as a whole, as well as how society and genetics affect individuals.
Naturalism is based on belief in nature as the creator as well as shaping
influence. It excludes belief in God and religion. It is thus a biased and
subjective view of life and the world whereas Realism describes any play
that depicts ordinary people in everyday situation, it does not impose
any particular creed or philosophy of life.

The Cherry Orchard often been classed as naturalistic and realistic play.
To decide whether it is naturalistic play or not let us first see what makes
a play naturalistic and realistic.

The salient features of naturalistic and realistic play are given below:

 Characters are product of their environment, each of them has

history with realistic situation, they are consistent and so their
behaviour is predictable. To the audience they appear as real.

 This kind of play depicts event that could happen in real life, maybe
even to members of the audience.

 Play is presented in a thoroughly realistic manner, effort is made to

make the audience believe they are watching not a play but a real

 Focuses on individuals and families in everyday situations.

 The events on stage give an impression being a part of a wider real


 Everything in play is disguised and organized to create an illusion of


 The play is usually set in domestic surroundings.

 During the late 1800s and early 1900s, playwright found ample
subject matter for both genres as the sciences advanced and
struggled and fought against oppressive governing system.

Seen in this light The Cherry Orchard appears to be more naturalistic and
realistic than any sort of play. For example the title itself is naturalistic
one, orchard is a synonym of garden and here Chekhov creates an
orchard which is full of cherry trees and through this naturalistic and
domestic scene he reflects the theme of naturalism in realistic society.
Outside there is frost in the cherry orchard

Then comes to the setting, the novel takes place in the setting of Russia
which is realistic one and it focuses on the importance of socialism and
change. The novel was written when there was a downfall of aristocracy
and rise of middle class in Russia. Noble class was enjoying luxuries of
life without doing anything; it even was not paying taxes. Serfs were
there to work for them. The communist revolution was ended in year
1917 but its beginning was very vital. Russia witnessed a social and
political change. Middle class started feeling proud on their class as
many nobles were unable to defend their estates.

Russia was divided into two main classes; first class was of serfs,
whereas the second was of aristocratic. Life of serfs was miserable. They
were working hard but gaining nothing. On the other hand, aristocratics
were doing nothing yet they were enjoying the luxuries of life. Being a
realistic play “The Cherry Orchard” focuses on these two classes.

For example, Lopakhin represents the class of serfs as he says Little

peasant.True. Son of a peasant and here I stand…like a pig in shop,still
a peasant though eh? whereas Mrs. Ranevsky represents the
aristocratic class, as about her Lopakhin says Fine woman - well,she was.
Straightforward. Very easy to talk to.The play starts when Lopakhin has
become a good businessman. Ranevsky estate is going to be auctioned.
Indeed, this play is about the social and political condition of Russia in
those days.

Feudalism was at the peak and middle class was wretched due to their
worst behavior. Thus, a change was required. Middle class raised voice
against it and gained success in throwing away the pride of noble class. It
is evident from this play. The character of Lopakhin can be referred here.
His forefathers were ancestors. They were working hard for Ranevsky
family even than they were living a miserable life. After social and
political change in Russia, improvement in Lopakhin’s condition is
witnessed. He has new ideas. He can think freely. His lifestyle has been
improved. He himself is getting the fruits of his labour; instead of giving
them to aristocratic people,as once Lopakhin says after the auction and
winning the nature, the cherry orchard that The most beautiful thing is I
bought this estate. Where my father and grandfather were serfs. On
the other hand, Ranevsky family is in tension. In order to pay large taxes,
it needs money. In case of failure, Ranevsky estate will be auctioned.
Similarly, Boris Simeonov Pishchik is also facing the same problem;
however, he manages to save his estate with the help of Mrs. Ranevsky.
Anton Chekhov has captured a clear picture of Russian society in “The
Cherry Orchard”. He has shown the social and political change of Russia
in this play.

Then comes to the characterization, in the play the story of each

character is connected to the nature, for example Lopakhin sees nature
as commercial point of view, he wants to purchase cherry orchard for his
property development project. He advises to Lyubov family to cut the
orchard and says all you have to do - divide up the orchard and the land
by the river into plots … build dachas, little cottages for the summer,
rent them out and you’ll have an income of twenty thousand roubles a
year … twenty at least.

For Lyubov cherry orchard is a source of nostalgia, it has an emotional

and romantic significance, as she says My Precious child! Are you happy
to be home? I still can’t believe I’m here. And when Lopakhin advised
her to cut it off then Lyubov says What? What did you say? … Cut it
down? The cherry orchard? Are you serious? Don’t you understand ?
this cherry orchard is the most remarkable … if there is one interesting
feature in this whole province, why then it’s our cherry orchard!
For Gayev, cherry orchard is a symbol of pride as he says Our cherry
orchard is mentioned in Andreyevsky’s Encyclopedia

Throughout the play we see that the nature plays an important role in
realistic setting with realistic life like characters as well as in the realistic
background of Russian history, and this play carries the all feature of
naturalistic and realistic play,though naturalistic play does not contains
symbolism but this play carries symbolism and symbolism is the feature
of non-naturalistic play and use of symbolism reveals that The Cherry
Orchard is not a purely naturalistic play but considering the all elements
of realistic and naturalistic play we can not call it an un-naturalistic play.

To conclude it can be said that the play is bold experiment by Chekhov,

in which he strains against the limitation of naturalism and realism to
break new grounds in the existing classification of drama. He reaches
out for a deeper meaning in nature with the realistic sense.