Literature Study GuidesThe Cherry OrchardAct 1 Lyubov Andreyevna Returns Home Summary

The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Act 1, Lyubov Andreyevna Returns Home | Summary

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The Cherry Orchard is a play written in four acts. For the purposes of summary and analysis, this study guide further breaks down acts based on major events.

Summary

Act 1 begins in May at the beginning of the 20th century on the estate of Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya. The estate's massive cherry orchard is in bloom, but it is a frosty dawn. In the nursery Dunyasha, the maid, nervously awaits the arrival of Lyubov Andreyevna and her daughter, Anya, who have been away for five years. Yermolai Alekseyevich Lopakhin, a wealthy merchant whose ancestors were once serfs on Lyubov Andreyevna's estate, also waits to see this woman who is now his friend. The train is late but Lyubov Andreyevna, Anya, and Charlotta Ivanovna, the governess, finally arrive. Family and friends are overjoyed to see them.

Varya, Lyubov Andreyevna's adopted older daughter, runs the household and shows the travelers how little their rooms have changed in their absence. Lyubov Andreyevna and Anya are eager to see the orchard. While their mother rests Varya and Anya discuss the estate's serious financial situation and realize they may lose their home unless they have more money soon. Anya recalls why Lyubov Andreyevna left the estate five years before: her husband died, and her seven-year-old son drowned a month later. Anya is concerned that when the boy's former tutor, Pyotr Sergeyevich Trofimov, comes to greet Lyubov Andreyevna on her return, it will make their mother sad.

Analysis

Lopakhin introduces the theme of old world versus new world. His recollection of his childhood as a peasant on the estate and Lyubov Andreyevna's kind treatment of him stands in contrast to their current social status. Lyubov Andreyevna is now without money, and Lopakhin, a merchant, is rich. With the cherry orchard in jeopardy Lyubov Andreyevna and aristocratic landowners like her are in decline, while Lopakhin and the rising business class he represents are gaining power.

The past also haunts the family and effects their relationship to the present and future. Lyubov Andreyevna's past is the most complicated than that of any other character in the play. She fled the estate five years before due to the deaths within a short period of her husband and of her young child. She loves the cherry orchard but is also saddened by the personal loss it represents. This is why Anya is concerned about her mother meeting Trofimov, her dead child's former tutor. She is afraid he will bring up the painful past for her mother. Nor did Lyubov Andreyevna's escape to Paris gave her relief from her traumatic past. Instead, her time there was filled with desperation and financial turmoil. As Varya and Anya discuss their mother, they ponder the past and how it will affect their future, which increasingly hinges on how to get money to save the estate.

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