In The Cherry Orchard, Gayev also follows the same pattern of denial and shattering of illusion. However, in contrast, Gayev decides to face reality once his illusion is broken. From the beginning, Gayev responds to the selling of the cherry orchard with denial. He rejects the possibility that the cherry orchard, a symbol of his illusion, will no longer be apart of his life. Believing this, he is willing to “swear upon [his] honour, upon whatever you like that the estate will not be sold!”(Chekhov.19)
This shows the extent of belief that Gayev possesses for the illusion. Gayev even takes the risk of being called “a low, dishonorable fellow,”(Chekhov 19) by promising that the cherry orchard will not be sold. Despite his trust in his illusion, the inevitable occurs and the cherry orchard is sold. However, unlike Vladimir or Bernada, Gayev chooses to accept reality and face life without the aid of illusion. He chooses to see his reality within the light of optimism.
He now sees that “everything’s all right now. Before the cherry orchard was sold we were all frightfully upset, we were all suffering. And then, as soon as the question had been finally settled, and no going back on it, we all calmed down.”(Chekhov 59) As a replacement for his denial and illusion, Gayev looks at the brighter side of the situation. He realizes that “only when [the illusion] finished did [he] realize how stupid it was”(Chekhov 19) to block out the truth and not accept reality. This is the main difference between the realistic Gayev and the delusional Vladimir and Bernada. Gayev also shared the same illusion to blanket the truth, however by realizing the purity of the truth he looks at life with a new perception, not needing illusion.
Through the shattering of illusion, we see the true essence of Vladimir, Bernada, and Gayev. Vladimir and Bernada, even though knowing the truth, choose the path of denial, blocking out the sunlight of reality with the shade of illusion. All three have reached the stage where they have had to choose which path to follow. In the end, what determines this is the state of emptiness each of their souls possessed. Vladimir, not even knowing who Godot is or what he looks like, still needs the illusive Godot as something to wait for.
Without the illusion that Godot will arrive, he is a lost soul with nothing to look forward to, nothing to believe in. Bernada, after realizing her emptiness and the reality of her guiltiness, needs to fulfill her empty soul with the illusion that nothing has changed, that her daughter, Adel, was a virgin when she died, and that her control over her other daughters still exists. Without this illusion, Bernada’s empty soul cannot bear the crucial truth that reality has to offer. Gayev, on the other hand, chooses to let go of the cherry orchard and the illusion it carries. By altering his perception on reality with a new “cheerfulness,” his soul is fulfilled. With this, he is able to accept reality and discard his former illusion. These three characters have all been under the grip of illusion’s vice, and through the shattering of this grip, do we see their soul under the light of reality.
We all have experienced the tension between reality and illusion. What makes us who we are as human beings, is made up of the mixing of these two elements. Like Vladimir and Bernada, we have all tried clinging on to a lost hope, or have denied an experience that has hurt us. We sometimes say that reality is too harsh for anyone to face. However Gayev proves to us that looking into the face of reality does not necessarily mean that one must only see the darkness of the truth, but the purity of the truth is also to be seen.
We need illusion at times to guard us from emotional hurt and secure our spirit with a wall of denial. However one must remember that the wall of illusion is not indestructible. If one relies on this wall too much, they’re spirit can also break with it. At some point, the wall will fall at the grounds of reality. At this time we will see the essence that we possess. Only when our illusions shatter can we see our humanism in the mirror of reality.