In the play “The Cherry Orchard,” by Anton Checkov, and the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the main characters were faced with a change in their life that they had to either accept or deny. Madame Ranevsky, the main character in “The Cherry Orchard” decided to deny the change that she was faced with and to live her life as she always had. Ivan Denisovich, the main character of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel, adapted to his change to save his life. The situations in which the characters lived in influenced the way these two characters adapted to change. This essay will discuss the adaptations to change, the reasoning behind the Madame Ranevksy’s decision to not accept the change in her life, and Ivan Denisovich’s reasoning to why he had to adapt in order to live.
During the play “The Cherry Orchard,” Madame Ranevsky seemed to be in her own world. She did not want to accept the fact that her family was going through a social change and that they were now poor. Along with her refusal to accept the change, she also reacted to change by running away from everything. In the beginning of the play Madame Ranevsky was coming home from Paris where she was for five years.1 She went to Paris after her husband passed away and son, Grisha, “drowned in the river, only seven”2 She was running away from the pain that the two deaths, which were only a month apart. She ran away to forget her past and even though she came back, she still wanted to find a way to forget her it. Her comment, “if I could forget the past,”3 showed the reader that she would prefer to run away from her problems and to forget all of the pain and horror that she had had in her life instead of dealing with the pain and the hurt and recovering from it. Even after five years she still cried for her son, “My Grisha…my boy…Grisha…my son…my boy was lost…drowned. Why?”4 Even though everyone is talking about a different subject in this scene, she seemed to not be paying attention, as though she was in her own world, remembering the past and never forgetting.
Madame Ranevsky also portrayed her refusal to accept change by not allowing the Cherry Orchard to be cut down and for it to be used as summer villas. “Cut down? You don’t know what you are talking about.” Even though her family was in debt and they had no more money, she would not accept the fact that the only way to keep her land and to gain money was the cherry orchard being cut down. Many other alternatives to gain money was tried but they all failed. She also did not accept her change in social status. She still acted as though she had a lot of money and spends. “She sold her villa at Mentone, she has nothing left, nothing…and mamma doesn’t understand! When we had dinner at the stations, she always ordered the most expensive things and gave the waiters a whole rouble,”5 her daughter, Anya said about their trip home from Paris. And although everyone in the play knew that Madame Ranevsky was in debt, Pishtchik, a landowner, still insists on asking her for a loan and even though Madame Ranevsky said that she had not money, he asked until she finally says yes. And once she said yes, he continued to ask her throughout the play for more money. She was taken advantage of by other people and she did not accept the fact that she did not have any money to give away. She also gave a wayfarer gold saying, “I’ve no silver. No matter – here’s gold for you.”6 She seemed to think that it’s not that big of a deal to give away gold.
While Madame Ranevsky refused to accept her change in life, Ivan Denisovich in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was forced to accept his change. Being in a Soviet work camp in Siberia, he did not have the choice to refuse his change in life. He had to modify his way of living to that of the ways of the Soviet camp. He woke up “at reveille…that gave him an hour and a half to himself before the morning roll call.”7 He knew what he could and could not do and he did whatever he could to benefit himself. He was considered a “special prisoner” and was given special jobs like scrubbing the warders’ room. 8 Ivan Denisovich, also known as Shukhov, also knew how to get around trouble by avoiding the right people and knowing that he had to. “He had to keep out of sight of the warders in front of the mess hall. The Commandant had given strict orders to pick up any stray prisoners and put them in the cells.”
9 He also knew ways of getting cigarettes and other delicacies from other prisoners. The novel shows how the camp changed people’s ways, “They simply couldn’t teach Western Ukrainian to change their ways.”10 This shows that the people had to adapt to the ways of the camp, that the camp changed the person. Ivan was known as a good worker in the work camp, “the best workers in the gang.”11 Even though the tools that they used for building the buildings in the work camp had to be turned in at the end of the day, Shukhov “pulled a fast one on the fellow in the tool shop” and kept the best tool for himself, hiding it in a different place each night.12 He also came up with ideas to make the work easier. As the other members of his gang were trying to make holes in a rock hard ground, Ivan came up with a plan to make it softer and he helped the men to carry out this plan.13 In the camps the gangs were paid by the work ability of everyone in it. The idea of everyone gets something or no one gets nothing drove the prisoners to work harder. This is what drove Shukhov to be a good worker.14
Ivan Denisovich had to accept the ideals of the work camp and to change his life because he did not know how long he was going to be there. If the end of your original sentence was near, they would have “five more (years) slapped on.”15 Because there was no definite release of prisoners, “you just went on living like this, with your eyes on the ground, and you had no time to think about how you got in and when you’d get out.”16 Ivan Denisovich adapted to his change because he had no idea as to when he would be free again.
Both Madame Ranevsky and Ivan Denisovich had a change in their life that they had to change too. Madame Ranevsky’s change dealt with her social status and her family being in debt while Ivan Desnisovich’s change was life threatening. This could be why Ivan Denisovich changed his ways. If he did not, his life was threatened because of the work camp. If he did not learn the ways of the camp, he could have been killed. Madame Ranevsky’s refusal of change was because she was so set in her ways of spending that she could not change. There was no person forcing her to change and threatening her life. She had the freewill to decide what she wanted to do while Ivan Denisovich had no freewill and had to go with the way things were in the camp.