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Literature Study GuidesThe Cherry OrchardAct 2 Lyubov Andreyevnas And Gayevs Refusal Summary

The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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Act 2, Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2, Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal from Anton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard.

The Cherry Orchard | Act 2, Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal | Summary



Dunyasha, Yasha, Charlotta, and Yepikhodov gather in a meadow near the entrance to the cherry orchard. An abandoned chapel stands nearby. Charlotta mentions that she knows almost nothing about her family history. Yepikhodov plays sad music on a guitar and awkwardly tries to declare his love for Dunyasha. Dunyasha, however, tells Yasha that she loves him. Yasha flirts with her and fancies himself a well-bred man. Charlotta finds them all silly, and marches off.

Lyubov Andreyevna, Gayev, and Lopakhin arrive. Lopakhin presses them to decide in favor of building the summer cottages. Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev find his plan unthinkable: Lyubov Andreyevna says it is too "vulgar." Lopakhin is exasperated by their refusal to act to save their estate. Lyubov Andreyevna explains that she has always squandered money, and their conversation again turns to the past, specifically her time in France. She recounts horrible experiences: the man she loved took advantage of her, she was left with no money, and she tried to kill herself.

When she notes his lack of refinement, Lopakhin again admits freely that he is rich but not cultured, as she is. Lyubov Andreyevna suggests that Lopakhin should marry Varya. Firs enters with Gayev's overcoat, reminiscing about how life was better before the serfs were freed, and how he rejected freedom in favor of remaining with his masters. Gayev goes off to seek a loan from a general, but his sister and Lopakhin think, correctly, that it will lead to nothing.


Conversation about the future of the cherry orchard continues, and the fate of Lyubov Andreyevna's estate becomes increasingly clear. She and Gayev remain entrenched in their notion that razing the cherry orchard to make room for rental cottages is an unacceptable plan. It offends their upper-class sensibilities by turning their family property into a crude business deal for common tourists. Lopakhin is frustrated by their unwillingness to think beyond what they have always known. Lopakhin finds their snooty attitude conflicts with his desire to act to save their estate. He is a creature of the new world, an upwardly mobile man of action whose eye is constantly on the future, not the past.

Lyubov Andreyevna condescendingly dismisses the vulgar "summer people," forgetting the fact that Lyubov Andreyevna herself was one of these in France: a wealthy vacationing tourist with an entourage and a lover. But the mood soon changes to one of sympathy, even pity, for her as she begins to recount her struggles in Paris. This contrast is one of Chekov's defining stylistic characteristics: the play moves between contradictory emotions, such as it moves between comedy (Charlotta marching off with her gun) and the deeply serious, if not tragic (Lyubov Andreyevna's tragic past and the loss of her home). Characters are often not all good or all bad, but a complex blend of qualities.

The unfitness of Charlotta as a governess to Anya further emphasizes the complexity of Lyubov Andreyevna's character through the ridiculousness of this choice for her daughter. Charlotta is the abandoned child of vaudevillian, perhaps even gypsy, performers. She is unqualified to be a governess for a young girl. Lyubov Andreyevna professes adoration for her child, but she is unable to provide for her in any meaningful way.

Firs's ruminations about the abolition of serfdom are also surprising. Rather than expressing gratitude for his liberty, Firs complains that he wouldn't consent to his freedom, preferring the ordered world of masters and servants. Firs shows that the relationship between the classes has always been complicated.

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