A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE SOCIAL CLASS CONCEPT IN ANTON CHEKHOV’S THE CHERRY ORCHARD AND JOHN OSBORNE’S LOOK BACK IN ANGER

Ömer ÖĞÜNÇ

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard (1904) depicting the lives of lower, middle and upper class Russian people at the very beginning of the twentieth century reflects the clash that takes place between these quite different social communities. About forty years after the emancipation of the serfs, Russian nobility represented by Madame Ranevsky has lost its financial power; so that, the last symbol of the glorious past, in this case the cherry orchard, is to be bought by the newly arising middle class identified with Lopahin. During the harsh struggle between these two classes, the lower class resuming the old values is left behind just as the old man Firs is forgotten at the end of the play. The result is the dawn of a new era with its dramatic changes for everyone. Turning back to John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (1956), the theme of struggle within the society focuses on lower and middle classes. Despite his great love for his wife Alison, Jimmy cannot cope with his inner conflicts resulting from the inability to reconcile his lower class background with that upper middle class of his wife. Therefore his anger never seems to calm down. That is also why he wishes Alison’s baby to die and has an intercourse with Alison’s close friend Helena. While the middle class people are responsible for all evil in this life, Cliff contributes to that with his ignorance and idleness sitting in the room. For Jimmy, all the desirable qualities and values are situated in the working class. Jimmy’s anger stemming from his obsession in the past and the responsibility he carries in himself to make up for the mistakes of the previous generations prevent him from looking forward. However, Alison’s return at the end of the play and the beginning of the love game between the couple once again shows that there is still hope for the future.

Keywords: Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, John Osborne, The Cherry Orchard, Look Back in Anger, lower class, middle class, social conflict, change