Yermolai Alexeevich Lopakhin is one of characters in The Cherry Orchard, a play by Anton Chekhov. Although he is not the main character of the play, some recognises the importance of this character for providing social and historical backgrounds of the play set in the turn of the twentieth century.
Goldman describes the role and meaning of this character in the context of social mobility:
‘The cherry orchard is heavily mortgaged and…the beautiful estate falls into the cruel hands of commercialism. The merchant Yermolai Lopakhin buys the place…He…who had risen from the serfs of the former master of the orchard!
‘A new epoch begins in the cherry orchard. On the ruins of romanticism and aristocratic ease there rises commercialism’ (http://www.theatredatabase.com/19th_century/anton_chekhov_003.html).
The argument can be endorsed from quoting from the play itself, especially what is assigned to Lopakhin to say:
‘LOPAKHIN: I have bought the property where my father and grandfather were slaves, where they weren’t even allowed into the kitchen’ (ibid).
Thus, Lopakhin simply represents a successful example in the newly introduced social mobility system in Russia. However, Goldman’s choice of words in the quote above does not seem to accord with the character’s supposedly cheerful state of mind. On the contrary, she connects ‘the beautiful estate’ to the old days’ ‘aristocratic ease’ and the rise of commercialism, which enabled Lopakhin to move up his social status from a slave of the estate to its owner, to the ‘cruel hands’. If so, should this play be recognised as a tragedy that depicts the downfall of an aristocratic family? Poplavskaya points out some difficulties on the genre issues of The Cherry Orchard as following:
‘Most producers prefer to see The Cherry Orchard as a comedy (even Chekhov wanted to see his play this way), however satirical part of the play is so weak. Lately The Cherry Orchard was known as comedy, drama, lyrical comedy, tragicomedy and tragedy. Probably it is little difficult to recognize the plays genre clearly. All characters go thru the conflict of “given” and “wished”– the conflict between everyday being and idea of human purpose in the world’ (http://www.my-chekhov.com/critics/cherry-orchard.shtml).
Goldman, Emma (2002), The Cherry Orchard, an analysis of the play by Anton Chekhov’, Theatre Database (electrically accessed 03/04/2011)
Poplavskaya, Veronika (year unstated), The Cherry Orchard. A Literary Analysis by Veronika Poplavskaya (electrically accessed 12/04/2011)