HomeLiterature Study GuidesThe Cherry OrchardAct 3 Lopakhin Takes Over Summary

The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Act 3, Lopakhin Takes Over | Summary

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Summary

People keep dancing as they await the outcome of the auction. Firs announces he doesn't feel well, but he insists he cannot go to bed. "Without me," he asks, "who will serve, who will see to things? I'm the only one in the whole house." Firs laments that instead of generals and admirals dancing at the ball they have the stationmaster and town clerk. Yepikhodov plays billiards in the other room, where he attempts to talk to Dunyasha, who prefers to avoid him. Varya scolds Yepikhodov for acting like a guest when he is an employee of the estate.

Lopakhin and Gayev finally arrive. Gayev is weeping, but Lopakhin is excited and laughing. Lopakhin announces that he has bought the cherry orchard, "the most beautiful estate in the whole world!" Varya throws the household keys on the floor. Lopakhin is proud that he has won the auction. He says that his father and grandfather, who were "slaves" on the estate, would be astonished, and gleefully talks about cutting down the cherry orchard. Lyubov Andreyevna weeps bitterly as Lopakhin gently tells her she should have listened to him. Anya tries to comfort her mother.

Analysis

Lyubov Andreyevna's ball highlights the continuing shift in class relationships. Firs still represents the oldest of the old guard. The former serf holds tightly to his role as servant and considers himself invaluable to the management of the household. His comment that he is the "only one in the whole house" foreshadows his fate when the family will leave him behind in Act 4.

Class structure is further turned upside down when the working-class stationmaster and clerk replace the aristocratic guests of the past at the ball. The swirl of dancers in the ballroom—Anya and the clerk, Trofimov and Lyubov Andreyevna, Pishchik and Charlotta—mirrors the swirl of classes as they increasingly mix in society. Similarly Yepikhodov replaces Gayev in the billiard room, a space traditionally off limits to Yepikhodov, a clerk, and those of his class. Yepikhodov's game of billiards is another signal that the world as Lyubov Andreyevna, Gayev, and Fir have known it is changing.

All of these markers of class upheaval are punctuated by Lopakhin's purchase of the estate, which seals the fate of Lyubov Andreyevna and her family. Varya throws away her keys, a physical sign that she knows she has been displaced. Lopakhin understands instantly, "She threw down the keys, wants to show that she's not mistress here anymore."

Chekhov again provides competing emotions in the same moment. Lopakhin is sorry, joyous, and unsentimental, all at the same time. He is sad for the family, but not too sad. "No matter," he says as he retrieves and jingles the keys. A portrait in gleeful upward mobility, Lopakhin contrasts who he used to be ("beaten, half-literate Yermolai, who used to run about barefoot in winter") to whom he has become—a wealthy man with a massive property. He has taken possession of the very estate on which his father and grandfather were "slaves" working in past generations for Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's aristocratic ancestors. Lopakhin can't wait to start cutting down the cherry orchard to make profits for the future generations of his own family.

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