Chekov and Tagore

Could Chekov and Tagore contrast in style, content, tone, and focus any more than they do? Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but it is something that I noticed right away. Apparently, Tagore made use of symbolism in his writings, whereas Chekov was a literary realist.

After reading Tagore’s poems, I noticed that “Spring at Last” is especially explicit. I wondered if the “perfumes” mentioned are a reference to pheromones? The next line about “leaves of… longing” makes me think so. The conversation Radha is having with her friend has evident sexual overtones. Per the notes online, it is suggested that Radha is conversing with a friend. What kind of friend gets an all access pass into one’s sexual frustrations? Either this friend is imaginary, or this friend is someone so close to Radha that she just lets it all hang out.

I noticed a lot of symbolism in the line, “The wind’s undressing you.” The wind is the act of speaking; it’s breath and vibration. In Hinduism, the breath is akin to creation; therefore, the wind may represent an act of creation. Or perhaps her own outcries are unveiling her love and thus exposing her true self as though she were naked.

Tagore seems to make several decoded references to menstruation in this poem, and it’s almost as if only someone familiar with left hand tantra (vama marg) can easily detect them, and that mystifies me. Or maybe someone familiar with symbols of the monthly female process is able to notice them as well. For instance, the friend calls Radha “scattered moonbeam” and this could mean that she is menstruating or ovulating because both processes correspond to moon cycles. “Scattered moonbeam” is also akin to calling her a lunatic (lunacy, luna, moon). Another symbol of menstruation that I noticed was the red flowers. In tantric Hinduism, namely in the vama marg tradition which exalts the female, the red Hibiscus flower is offered to MaKali. In this tradition, the female is the most powerful/closest to the goddess/devi when she is menstruating. Even more references are found in the next poem. “Budding, blooming, dying” seems to reflect the female’s reproductive cycles, again. Maybe Tagore’s interest in utilizing the symbolism of menstruation is an expression of his concerns with feminism.

Maybe referring to these cycles also represents Radha’s longing for Krishna to give her not only love, but also a child. “No fruit, no flowers” indicates that she is barren, but not willingly. Perhaps Tagore is subtly pointing out that Godhead holds spirit, but the female supplies the womb. Hence, the constant reference to sex and the female reproductive system.

The Hindu concept that breath equals life force is also found in “Unending Love,” possibly. The last line about poets makes me wonder if Tagore was implying that existence in itself is poetry, because words manifest creation.

I noticed that none of the characters in Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” are necessarily bad or vilified, but most of them have questionable morals. I’m mystified that Chekov doesn’t seem to have any particular point to make in his story. I could not find deeper meaning in any of the characters or anecdotes. It seems as though he truly has a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of approach, a realism approach to writing, unless I’m misunderstanding what realism is in the literary sense.

All of the characters have a strange way of talking to each other. Like, they are almost disassociated from any possible reaction, especially Yepihodov’s way of talking. “Our climate does not activate properly.” What does that mean? Gayev is another perfect example with his incessant billiard rambling throughout the play. Did Chekov do this to contrast the elements of tragedy? I think he may have because it does add a comedic quality to the play.

Mme Ranevskaya is clearly materialistic. Isn’t she? Is she the archetype of rich bitch? When she returns to the estate, she even starts kissing her furniture (2547). She goes on to hire a band she can’t afford in Act III. She always expects others to clean up her financial mess by having her aunt send her money (2565), or having Lopahin follow the auction. She didn’t even attend the auction. She didn’t even learn from her mistakes. After the estate is sold, she leaves to blow the aunt’s money in Paris. This perplexes me. Why doesn’t she care about her kids? Maybe Chekov’s idea of realism in writing means that life just is, and people are the way they are, and there’s no reason why other than that’s the way it is/goes.

Obviously, Mme Ranevskaya character truly baffles me. If the orchard she grew up on is so important to her, then why didn’t she do anything about losing it? Maybe deep down she wanted to let go of her tragic past—it is where her son drowned (“My son drowned here…”2566).

Lopahin’s character astounds me as well. He goes from being the only sane guy in the room (before the orchard goes to auction), to being just as overzealous as the rest of the cast (after he buys the orchard, and demands to chop down the trees immediately). Why did he try to help them in the first place? In the beginning, he shows genuine concern for the Gayev family estate. I think he wanted to help the estate by suggesting it be clearcut and developed into summer homes so that he could tear down the memories of his father and grandfather being slaves there, especially because his only memory of his father is that of him being drunk and violent. So, when it came time for the auction, and the family hadn’t taken his advice, he took it upon himself to buy it (out of spite because the other bidder was a foe) so that he could ensure it is leveled to dirt (Act IV: “…will lay the ax to the cherry orchard…”).

One thing is for sure, Chekov has more worldly/terrestrial drama in his works, and Tagore makes use of more emotional/spiritual drama.


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