In a play, a writer cannot directly say anything to the audience nor he can convince them personally but there is something he can do; some methods can be adopted through which he can submit his opinions. Firstly, the writer can use the technique of symbolism but this technique cannot be directly implemented. It is difficult for the audience to perceive every symbol used in the play; symbols are dependent on the psyche of a person. Some can easily understand them, whereas some find difficulty. There is also another way to clearly define a message and clarify the same to the audience i.e. dialogues. Dialogues are delivered through characters. Thus, a writer can give a message to the audience through a character. In this way, characters, apart from actions, have another major importance in a drama. In “The Cherry Orchard”, this technique has been adopted by Anton Chekhov. He has sketched a specific character for this purpose viz. Peter Trofimov. He informs the audience about change and revolution in Russia. He also speaks on the importance of socialism. Although he has been sketched as a shabbily dressed ‘student’ yet he has much important in this play. Anton Chekhov had decided to write a comedy, therefore, every character performs some actions which produce humour. On one hand, Peter Trofimov creates humour in the play but at the same time it serves a very important purpose. His dialogues and speeches are seriously considerable. Let’s have an introduction of this character.
Peter Trofimov as mentioned supra is an eternal student. He remained dressed in school uniform, therefore, is called eternal student. Mrs. Ranevsky has no direct link with him. He was a teacher/tutor to Mrs. Ranevsky’s son but her son had died. Now, he lives with them and Mrs. Ranevsky refreshes the memories of her son while seeing Peter Trofimov. He was also involved in political activities, therefore, he has knowledge about every situation and activity of Russia. He knows every political party. Mrs. Ranevsky considers that Peter Trofimov has aged badly. She may be right. Perhaps, due to working in a labour camp as a penalty for subversive political activities, his age grew too fast. He loves Anya but Mrs. Ranevsky always ridicules him because of his speeches and his extra exaggerative words. For instance, he says that his and Anya’s relationship is above love. But all these things create humour in the play. The primary purpose of this character is to aware the audience about social and political condition of Russia. Hence, through this character Anton Chekhov has focused on Russian Revolution. It is also noteworthy that he has injected humour in his actions and dialogues from being too serious.
Peter Trofimov speaks in favour of socialism. He talks about the rights of serfs. He emphasizes the importance of work. He convinces Anya that the whole of Russia is her orchard. Soviet critics after the Russian Revolution of 1917 latched onto the character of Trofimov as a literary hero exemplifies the ideals of Socialism, often citing his speech describing the trees in the orchard as souls. We know that the play mainly focuses on change; the change in Russia when properties of noble people were distributed among serfs. Miserable life of serfs was becoming better day by day. On the other hand, aristocratic class was not happy with it. People like Peter Trofimov have given awareness to the audience that change is necessary. He also symbolizes the trees of cherry orchard as souls of deads.
Peter Trofimov has philosophy of his own. It is actually the philosophy of the writer. There are some speeches of Trofimov which are based on reality; truth is certain attached to them. His speeches leave impact on the minds of audience and compel them to think twice on their actions. For instance, while talking about pride he asks a question “what have we to proud of as species?” and then he answers “human beings are coarse, unintelligent, and often deeply unhappy. We should stop admiring ourselves and get down to work”. It is the most important speech of the play. Now consider the autobiography of Anton Chekhov. He also belonged to the family of serfs. He knows the importance of hard work. Serfs are not born only for work and nobles to enjoy the luxuries of life. Both classes should concentrate on work in order to survive while throwing away their pride. Similarly on another occasion he says:-
“All these things [money] has no power on me…Humanity is on the move towards higher truth… towards the greatest happiness possible on this earth… and I am in the van, in the front rank!”
Thus, he is the part of the movement. He is among those, who are doing something for the welfare of humanity. He feels proud in doing so.
Another speech of Peter Trofimov proves that Anton Chekhov has commented on the sociological changes in Russia through him when he says to Anya:-
“all your ancestors owned serfs. They owned living beings. Can’t you see human beings looking at you from every leaf and every tree trunk? To own living souls—that’s what has changed you all so much—That’s why your mother, you yourself, and your uncle no longer realize that you are living on borrowed capital, at other people’s expense, at the expense of those whom you don’t admit father than you entrance hall. ”
In a nutshell, Peter Trofimov’s role is very important in this play. Some major themes are attached to him. He put the social and political revolution of Russia in front of the audience. He also describes the philosophy of writer. There are a lot of symbols attached to him. He forces Anya, Mrs. Ranevsky and other persons to accept change. Unlike Lopakhin, he does not give any suggestion to save the estate instead he advises them to work and put their so-called proud aside. Critics have said that Lopakhin is the soul of Anton Chekhov, whereas Peter Trofimov is his mind so far as autobiographical elements in “The Cherry Orchard” are concerned.