Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya
Lyubov Andreyevna owns a beautiful estate with a famous cherry orchard, but her poor management skills have left her nearly bankrupt. She has just returned to Russia from France, where the man she loves swindled her of all her money. Home now but still poor, she is in danger of losing the house and the cherry orchard that make up the estate. Lyubov Andreyevna admits that she squanders money but cannot seem to change. Presented with a plan to cut down the cherry orchard and build rental cottages by her friend Lopakhin, a businessman, she dismisses it as vulgar and refuses to do anything to solve the problem. A kind woman, Lyubov Andreyevna is beloved by her children and neighbors but represents an aristocratic class that is falling from power. In the end her inability to adapt to the changing times leaves her without her childhood home and the orchard she adores.
Leonid Andreyevich Gayev
Along with Lyubov Andreyevna, Gayev resists Lopakhin's plan to cut down the cherry orchard and build cottages to rent to "summer people." Well intentioned but ineffectual, Gayev talks, often excessively and ridiculously. He is prone to describing imaginary billiard shots to no one in particular and launching into overly sentimental speeches about odd subjects, such as an old bookcase. But he fails to act to save the cherry orchard. Gayev is with Lopakhin when the estate is sold and returns home devastated. Like his sister Gayev associates the cherry orchard with his aristocratic past. By the end of the play, in spite of procuring a job at a bank he seems at a loss about how to function in the real world of the future.
Anya, who traveled with her mother, Lyubov Andreyevna, throughout France, watched as she entered a disastrous love affair and sunk deeper into debt. In love with Trofimov, or at least swept away by his idealistic speeches, Anya tries to embrace the new world order he hopes for. She is happy to be home and loves the cherry orchard. But Trofimov's ideas change her, and although she is sad to lose her family estate she is excited and hopeful for a brave new world of opportunity. She trades her protected life with her mother for a life of education and ideas and, perhaps, of action.
Lacking the preferential status Anya enjoys as Lyubov Andreyevna's biological daughter, Varya works hard to manage the family estate. Her mother has wasted almost all their money, making it tough for Varya to run the household. A pious woman, Varya would love nothing more than a life devoted to prayer, but without financial resources her dream is impossible and she is left with few options. Varya loves Lopakhin, but although he is fond of her he does not propose marriage. As a result when the orchard is sold and the family must move, Varya's life changes drastically as she prepares to go into service as a housekeeper.
Lopakhin, the son and grandson of serfs who worked on Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya's estate, is a rich merchant. He has become a family friend to Lyubov Andreyevna, of whom he thinks kindly for her gentle treatment of him when he was a child. Lopakhin explains to her how she can save the cherry orchard, but she will not listen. She wants no part of replacing the cherry orchard with the rental summer cottages he proposes because she feels such a plan is beneath her. Lopakhin and the cottages represent the new business class, while Lyubov Andreyevna and her orchard are relics of the upper class. Lopakhin buys the estate. His is happy because he now owns the very land his ancestors, who were serfs, worked on. Lopakhin avoids a chance to propose to Lyubov Andreyevna's adopted daughter Varya, ensuring that the family will have to leave their home. Although he is fond of Lyubov Andreyevna and her family, he is not sentimental and happily moves into the future as the owner of their estate.
Trofimov, an "eternal student," was the tutor of Lyubov Andreyevna's little boy, Grisha, who drowned six years before. A champion of the serfs who were owned by aristocrats like Lyubov Andreyevna and her family, Trofimov looks toward a future based on greater equality between classes. He makes passionate speeches to Anya, who loves him, about a new world of freedom that will replace the aristocratic past. But although Trofimov makes great speeches about social change, he, like most of the other characters, lacks the ability to put his words into action. He is more a thinker than a doer, but Anya vows to follow him and his ideals.