Cherry Orchard Symbolism “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” This quote by Anais Nin expresses an essential point of view for this discussion about the symbolic meaning of inanimate objects, since it is our personality and our memories, which determine our character and meaning. Our feelings towards certain objects are individual, as everyone associates different things in a different manner. Insofar, “we see them as we are”, since they can mirror our past, pains, hopes and our ideals. Thus they become more than just an object, but a symbol for a certain part of someone’s feelings and life.
This is also the case in “The Cherry Orchard”: objects as the nursery room, the bookcase and the cherry orchard take on their own symbolic life. They all share one thing in common: each one reveals something of the characters’ personalities, feelings and ideals. These inanimate objects are a reflection of the characters’ inner states of being. The meaning of these inanimate objects are changing analogously with the characters’ change of mood, perspective and state of mind. Thus one gets the impression that the objects are more like persons, since it is only the characters’ life, which makes and keeps them alive.
The nursery room may be for an outstanding person without any implicit significance, but for Lopakhin and Liuba it is a symbol for their childhood, background and past. The nursery room reminds Lopakhin of his origins. It makes him aware that he is “just a peasent” (p.334); no matter how rich he has become or how elegant he might be dressed, his social background still remains visible for other people. After all, one “can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”(p.334), as his origins will be for good a part of his identity. For Liuba the nursery room symbolizes her “innocent childhood” (p.347). Being in this room, in which “she used to sleep when she was little” (p.336) seems to bring her back to feel a part of that secure, carefree life and makes her feel “little again”(p.336). The bookcase has the same effect on her; all her troubles seem to be far away and she feels pure “happiness” (p.342).
Gayevs’ ‘relationship’ to the bookcase is less personal, as he doesn’t associate a particular personal memory with it. He considers it rather as an object, which has its own personality; hence, though it is “an inanimate object, true, but still a bookcase (p.345)”! The way he sees it is reminiscent of a hero, as it has for already hundred years “devoted itself to the highest ideals of goodness and justice” (p.345) and has never deceived anyone. Being constantly and unshakably true to its ‘principles’, it was a source, from which “several generations of their family”(p.345) have drawn courage and hope “in a better future”(p.345). In the course of time a lot of things have changed: some people are dead, Gayev and Liuba got adolescent, and the estate is probably going to be sold. However, the bookcase not being subject to any rules or changes, thus becomes for Gayev a symbol of consistency and security.
The central symbol of “The Cherry Orchard”, as the title might suggest, is the cherry orchard itself. The cherry orchard does not only represent an inanimate object, but it is the center of the characters’ world. Their lives could be divided into the era “before the cherry orchard was sold” (p.301) and into the era after it. With this change the symbolic meaning of the cherry orchard before and after the sale also changes. The cherry orchard’before the sale’ plays a part in each of the characters’ past; but it seems foremost to be part of Liuba’s mind, through which the cherry orchard takes on his own symbolic life, as its symbolic meaning changes with the changes in her mind. She “can’t conceive to live without the cherry orchard” (p.375), as almost her whole past and memories are connected to it.
Looking at it seems to revive the memories of her “happy childhood” (p.347) and makes time stand still, as if “nothing has changed”(p.347) in her life. In those days her attitude towards life was innocent and “bold” (p.375), as she wasn’t yet “able to foresee or expect anything dreadful”(p.375). She felt like the cherry orchard, “after the dark, stormy autumn and the cold winter, [-] young and joyous again” (p.347); but now, she seems to have lost this “power of vision” (p.375) and her naive view of life. That’s might be the reason for her to see the cherry orchard in such an illusory light. It had become a refugee place, where she hides to escape from reality, her “problems” (p.375) and “sins” (p.359).
The cherry orchard for her embodies a kind of paradise, into which her ‘unhappy past’ does not enter, but only her ‘happy past’. She doesn’t want to let go the cherry orchard, because she doesn’t want to let go her ‘happy past’. As long as the cherry orchard exists, her childhood feelings seem to continue to still exist for real. To sale the cherry orchard would mean to erase that beloved part of her life and thus sell her (p.347), too. However, the irony is that she escapes from her’unhappy past’ to a place just like the cherry orchard, which magic only lives through the past itself.
In as much as the cherry orchard represents a kind of ‘Garden Eden’ for her, it at the same time also is a “burden” (p.348), which rests on her shoulders. As long as she continues to stick to the orchard, she won’t “forget her past” (p.349) and won’t thus be able to create a new future. “To begin to live in the present, one must first atone for his past and be finished with it” (p.368). Unlike t Liuba, her daughter, Ania, already reached that conclusion and is willing to “leave” (p.368) this burden behind her; her “love” (p.367) for the cherry orchard has vanished, as it is part of her past life and has therefore nothing to do any longer with her present and future. ‘The cherry orchard after the sale’ thus becomes a symbol for renewal and a new beginning for the life of each character in the play: Lopakhin purchasing the estate got able to get rid of his origins.
“Gay with life and wealth” (p.344), he has freed himself from being only the grandson and son of serfs, who used to work on this estate. Now he has become the owner of that place and with the cutting down of the cherry orchard, he is going to leave his past and origins behind him, creating a “new living world” (p.384). Also Liuba’s “burden” (p.348) of the past seems now to have become lighter; “her nerves are better” (p.391) and she is going to leave for Paris, since she might have recognized that it’s finished long ago [and] that there is no turning back”(p.375). Gayev has finally “calmed down” (p.391), too and is going to be an employee of a bank. Varia is going to leave for a new job, and Ania and Trofimov are gladly stepping towards their “new life” (p.391).
Also the rest of the characters have to start a new life in a new place. When they leave [-] there won’t be a soul in this place” (p.397) anymore. Maybe not in this place, that’s true, but for sure in another place, since there are in the world “many, many wonderful places” (p.367/368), on which one can “plant a new orchard” (p.385).