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Indirect Action In The Cherry Orchard And The Ghosts

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1498 words Published: 3rd May 2017

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Actions or events do not necessarily have to be physically shown to the audiences because there are variety of ways of informing and portraying an image or an action that becomes the basis of a play. Indirect action, which is never seen on stage is that extra spice added by the playwright to evoke the complications that are essential to further a plot. It involves action important to the plot occurring off-stage. The audience does not see the action happening in front of their eyes but they learn about it by watching characters emphasizing on the important details. Indirect action helps create tension, suspense and also intensifies understanding of the plot for the reader. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov and Henrik Ibsen have both used indirect action to shape some of the most interesting scenes of the plays The Cherry Orchard and Ghosts.

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In the opening act of Cherry Orchard, Anya’s description of the harsh condition her mother is in is an example of indirect action. This is evident from Anya’s statement – “when I arrived there were a lot of French men with her and ladies, and an old catholic priest with a book, and it was very uncomfortable and full of tobacco smoke I suddenly felt so sorry for mamma ,oh so sorry!” [1] The daughters nature of being aware and concerned is seen .Through the use of visual imagery the understanding is made clear and the audience has been made to understand that Madame Ranevsky is running low on financial terms. Madame Ranevsky’s character of being an escapist is explored through the following lines “and mamma won’t understand! We got out at a station to have dinner, and she asks for all most expensive things and gives the waiters a tip.” [2] The daughter’s point of view is that the mother is unaware of the establishment being on the verge of bankruptcy and wants to continue leading her luxurious life. The audience has been made aware of these instances even though it wasn’t acted on stage. The Cherry Orchard is the most important symbol in the play; it is never brought into the direct vision of the audience and is just spoken about. The impact of the cherry orchard on the different characters of the play is very significant in furthering the plot woven by Chekhov.

In Act 1, Madame Ranevsky, the owner of the estate is reminded by Lopakhin that the estate will be auctioned in August to pay the mortgage of the estate. Lopakhin adds on by saying, “but don’t you be uneasy my dear lady; sleep peace fully; there is a way out of it.” [3] It has become clear that the cherry orchard is an integral part of Madame Ranevsky’s life and it is a symbol of her youth and childhood. Chekov has efficiently brought out the true nature of characters through their own words, for instance, when Anya says, “there was somebody in the kitchen just now saying that the cherry orchard was sold today.” Madame Ranevsky, “Sold? Who to?” Anya, “he didn’t say who to.” [4] This action which was set off stage brings in front the result of the auction and reveals Madame Ranvesky’s interest in the possession of the cherry orchard. Lopakhin’s speech at the end of act 3, narrating the sale of cherry orchard, is the most important instance of indirect action in the play. Lopakhin: “I bid nine thousand more than the mortgage and got it; and now the cherry orchard is mine! Mine!” [5] Although the audience does not see the sale but is made aware about it only through this indirect action around which the entire play is fused.

“Heavens alive just think of it! The cherry orchard is mine! Tell me that I am drunk: tell me that I am of my head: tell me that it’s all a dream! …don’t laugh at me! I have bought the property where my father and grandfather were slaves were they weren’t even allowed into the kitchen.” [6] Lopakhin shows his happiness after acquiring the cherry orchard. Lopakhin’s statement reveals the practices of the time when slavery was in practice and the exploitation of slaves that existed then. In this period of time, a major population of serfs in Russia was freed pioneering a long awaited social change.

Indirect action plays a vital role in this play; the memories of the past have resurfaced through the use of indirect action. The characters are haunted by “ghosts” they are unable to control. The characters are constantly reminded about the memories of the past. Both captain Alving and Johanna are dead, yet both are responsible for unfolding the tragedy. The relationship between different characters is perplexing. In the opening act, the conversation between Mrs. Alving and Manders details the relationship that existed between Mrs. Alving and captain Alving. “When Oswald was born, I thought I saw a slight improvement. But it did not last long. And after that I had to fight doubly hard-fight a desperate fight so that no one should know what sort of a man my child’s father was.” [7] The fight Mrs. Alving is talking about in the words quoted above, is the process which she practiced in order to white wash the reputation forged by her husband.

Mrs. Alving in conversation with Manders mentions all past instances and reveals about all her experiences and sufferings. Manders “you have indeed had a pitiable experience.” Manders. “And this is the man you are building a memorial to.” [8] The memorial which is being talked about is the orphanage, an orphanage which was built by Mrs. Alving to repair the damage that captain Alving had done to his reputation. Later on in the conversation [from the dining room is heard the noise of a chair falling; then Regina’s voice is heard in a loud whisper: Oswald are you mad? let me go! Mander’s what’s the matter? What is it Mrs. Alving? Ghosts. The couple in the conservatory-over again.] [9] The present situation of off-stage action is compared to the previous one where captain Alving was shown to be getting close to Johanna as Oswald is doing now. Mrs. Alving presumes the ghost of captain Alving is influencing Oswald. Oswald “I began to feel the most violent pains in my head-mostly at the back, I think. It was as if a tight band of iron was pressing on me from my neck upwards.” [10] The pain felt by Oswald is a result of his vermoulu disease which was inherited form his father and also reveals that the “sins of the father are visited on the children.” Indirect action has helped in the progression of the main theme “the past haunting the present”.

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“Regina: Mrs. Alving! Listen! They are shouting outside .Oswald: what can be the matter? Where does the glare come from? Regina the orphanage is on fire!” [11] The burning of the orphanage is the most significant example of indirect action. The orphanage can be compared to the cherry orchard which is the cornerstone of the play. The burning of the orphanage signifies that the characters cannot be freed from the ghost which they have to suffer.

Many instances of indirect action are explored in these works of Chekhov and Ibsen. Whether it was sale of the cherry orchard or the burning of the orphanage. They both are similar in showing a change taking place, as well as the progression of time. Towards the end of both plays the reader does realize that what is not seen is best described – through indirect action. Indirect action happens to be the most important technique in order to progress the central ideas in both the works.


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