HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe Cherry OrchardAct 2 Trofimovs Speeches Summary

The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Act 2, Trofimov's Speeches | Summary

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Summary

Trofimov, Anya, and Varya arrive and join the conversation with Lopakhin, Gayev, and Lyubov Andreyevna. Trofimov, a poor student, and Lopakhin, a self-made wealthy merchant, trade insults about their different social positions. Trofimov speaks philosophically about his need to work, and Lopakhin makes the same claim for himself. Trofimov finds fault with the Russian intelligentsia, or intellectual elite, for their shallowness, lack of productivity, and mistreatment of the underclasses.

As they all ponder Trofimov's speech, the distant sound of a plucked string is heard. They do not know what it is, but the sound makes them uneasy. They are made more uncomfortable when a shabby stranger approaches asking for money. Lyubov Andreyevna gives him a gold coin, an act that distresses everyone because her family's own servants have nothing to eat. Lopakhin reminds everyone of the date of the upcoming sale of the cherry orchard. Anya and Trofimov are left alone, and Trofimov inspires Anya with a speech about the cherry orchard, which for him is a symbol of the serfs who suffered as they worked there.

Analysis

The cherry orchard is a symbol of the class system. As various characters stand beside the orchard, they voice feelings and observations about the social classes. Trofimov and Lopakhin share similar feelings about the concept of work. Lopakhin actually does work (which is the source of his growing fortune). He explains, "I get up before five in the morning, and I work from morning to night." Trofimov, however, talks about work but, as a student, his labor is made up mostly of thinking and talking. Yet Trofimov voices criticism of the upper classes who are "incapable of work" and merely "philosophize," although the description could apply to himself. Trofimov has the right ideas but may lack the self-awareness or know-how to put them into practice.

The sound of the plucked string seems to signal that change is coming. Just after they hear it, a shabby stranger appears. His arrival foregrounds Lyubov Andreyevna's carelessness with money as she gives him a coin that she desperately needs herself. The man also represents what Lyubov Andreyevna and her family could become without their aristocratic status and their property.

The snapped string also heralds Trofimov's seminal speech to Anya about the darker side of the cherry orchard's past. He inspires her with his harshly realistic view of the orchard and aristocratic life from the workers' perspective. In describing a Russia that is freer for all, he becomes the voice of the social revolution. Anya is enthralled, even though it is the ruling class to which she belongs that will suffer. Trofimov believes that Russia needs to "atone for the past, be done with it." Only hard work will lead to a better future for all Russians.

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