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The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Discussion Questions 1 - 10


In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) of The Cherry Orchard why does Lopakhin pause after he recalls Lyubov Andreyevna calling him a "little peasant" in his childhood?

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) Chekhov uses the pause to reveal something about Lopakhin's character. In real life people often pause when they feel conflicted. After the pause Lopakhin says it is true that he was a peasant. He is torn as he recalls his first meeting with Lyubov Andreyevna in which she was gentle toward him yet offended him by calling out his lowly social status as a "little peasant." As Lopakhin goes on to say that he is now rich, it becomes clear that his memories of childhood poverty contrast with his current social status as a rich businessman. He looks forward to seeing Lyubov Andreyevna again, but he no longer identifies as being a peasant in the eyes of an aristocrat. Thus the pause is dramatic as it unveils his inner conflict about his eagerness to see her while he knows that it will bring up memories of a lowly past he has left behind.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) how does the inclusion of Yepikhodov change the mood of the scene?

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) Lopakhin recounts a sad memory from his peasant childhood of his father beating him. This serious recollection is followed by the appearance of the household clerk, Yepikhodov, as a romantic fool and hopeless lover. While much of Act 1 is serious, Yepikhodov's role provides comic relief. He enters dropping flowers on the floor, complaining about his squeaky shoes, and lamenting his life in an overly theatrical way. Dunyasha says everyone calls Yepikhodov "Two-and-twenty Troubles" because of his clumsiness and incomprehensible speeches. The effect is to break up the serious mood with comedy.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) what is Chekov's purpose in not staging the dramatic events of Lyubov Andreyevna's past?

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) Chekhov has traumatic events from Lyubov Andreyevna's past occur before the play begins. These events include the death of her husband, the drowning of her seven-year-old son, and the ruin of her fortune. In doing so he focuses attention more on the characters' memories of these events, their emotional reactions to them, and their attempts to deal with them in the present. Doing so also draws attention to the complexities of the changing social interactions Russia was experiencing. By having the traumatic events be part of Lyubov Andreyevna's distant past rather than staging them as part of the play, Chekov shows how the past haunts the present but fails to shape the future. This helps demonstrate the contrast between the aristocracy of the past, with its inability to admit its power is dying, and the rise of a new social class that takes it place.

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) of The Cherry Orchard what do Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's reactions to Lopakhin's plan to save the estate reveal about their personalities?

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) Lyubov and Gayev's immediate rejection of Lopakhin's plan to save the estate reveals that they are ill equipped to think about a new future. They are in denial that the orchard will be put up for sale at an auction unless they come up with a viable plan. Rather than engage in action to save their estate, they lose themselves in their memories of their past glory as wealthy upper-class people or come up with feeble plans to ask for insufficient or unlikely loans. Lyubov and Gayev's unwillingness to become business people in order to generate income and save their estate does not bode well for them. Their sentimentality about the past shows that they cannot adapt to changing times. As a result they are at a loss for how to function in a new world.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) how does Firs symbolize the class structure of the old world?

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) as a former serf and now a servant, Firs, clinging to the only life he has ever known, represents a dying social order. Freedom from serfdom did not change his life, and he continues to serve the upper classes as if nothing has changed. Elderly and partially deaf, he is filled with nostalgia for the past. However, as he ages his social position is fading away with the impending loss of the cherry orchard and the decline of its wealthy owners. Firs's comment that no one remembers the recipe for dried cherries reveals a past that already is forgotten in the modern world. Firs states he is ready to die after seeing Lyubov Andreyevna, symbolizing that the old social order in Russia is ready to die and be buried for good.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much) what does it reveal about Lyubov Andreyevna's character when she thinks her mother appears in the cherry orchard?

In Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much) Lyubov Andreyevna is caught up in the pleasant, secure feelings that the cherry orchard, her mother, and Russia's past gave her family when they were wealthy landowners. At the same time she has painful memories of the tragedies of her life on the estate where her husband and her seven-year-old son died years before. In imagining her mother's appearance in the cherry orchard, Lyubov Andreyevna envisions an idyllic past that is colliding with the unsettling reality of the modern world. Confronted by losing her family estate just before it is to be auctioned to pay the mortgage, her vision of her mother in the cherry orchard shows how Lyubov Andreyevna tries to hang on to an old identity of privilege and nobility in a past age.

In The Cherry Orchard in what ways is the orchard introduced as a plot device in Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much)?

The gathering of the primary characters in the main house at the cherry orchard in Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much) sets the plot in motion. The cherry orchard has a major impact on each of them, not only as a result of their pasts but also in light of their present situations and uncertain futures. For example, Lyubov Andreyevna is deeply attached to the orchard and even imagines her dead mother appears there. The cherry orchard thus becomes the major device that drives the plot of the play forward. Lyubov Andreyevna and her brother, Gayev, make futile attempts to hold on to their aristocratic status in the face of social and economic forces at the beginning of the 20th century after the Russian aristocracy had declined. The sister and brother face financial ruin with the rise of the middle class represented by Lopakhin, and they refuse to develop the business savvy now required to economically survive. In contrast Lopakhin, a former serf, has concrete ideas on how to save their family's estate through commercialism. Thus the play's main action revolves around the present and future of the cherry orchard.

In The Cherry Orchard how is the orchard introduced as a symbol in Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much)?

In Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much) the cherry orchard is a symbol of the past, and it represents different memories for different characters. For example, it represents the old world for Lyubov Andreyevna, a world that was very good for families of wealthy landowners such as hers. In contrast for Lopakhin the orchard symbolizes an unpleasant past for peasants like him and his family, many of whom served as serfs to Lyubov Andreyevna's family. For both characters the cherry orchard represents massive changes in their private lives between their past and the present as a result of the pivotal change in Russia's history as it moved into modern times by eliminating serfdom. Aristocratic landowners suffered as a result. This change has been good for Lopakhin, who has left his past behind to vastly improve his economic and social status. For Lyubov Andreyevna, this change is shattering because her family's cherry orchard must now be turned into a business or sold.

In Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much) of The Cherry Orchard how is Gayev similar to and different from his sister, Lyubov Andreyevna?

Gayev, like his sister, Lyubov Andreyevna, is a kind, well-intentioned character who sees the cherry orchard as representative of a positive aristocratic past. And like his sister he has difficulty figuring out how to transition to the new world, in which the cherry orchard has to be monetized or sold to pay its mortgage. They both are impotent in a changing world. However, while Lyubov Andreyevna is presented sympathetically due to her tragic history, Gayev is a more comical than sad figure. He is a talkative eccentric who launches into inappropriate, sentimental speeches about bookcases and billiards when no one is paying attention to him. His fond memories of billiards in particular distinguish him as clinging to the past: while peasants worked the land he could indulge in a life of frivolous leisure. His ideas about saving his estate are ineffectual because, as an aristocrat, he is not a man of action. He lacks the drive to act to save the family estate by adapting to change.

In The Cherry Orchard how does Chekov create sympathy for Lyubov Andreyevna in Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much)?

In Act 1 (Gayev Talks Too Much) while Lyubov Andreyevna seems unable to cope with the choices before her to deal with her family's estate, she also is presented as kind and affectionate toward her family members and servants. Despite his father having been her family's serf, Lopakhin considers her a friend and is eager to see her again. He tells her that she "did so much for me once, that [I] ... love you as if you were my own kin—more than my kin." Also Lyubov Andreyevna truly loves the cherry orchard, even if she is overly sentimental about it considering her financial straits. Finally Chekhov reveals Lyubov's tragic past—the drowning of her little boy, her husband's death, and more recently, her lover swindling her in France. Thus Chekov creates sympathy for Lyubov Andreyevna's inability to handle the current crisis about the family estate by showing how much she has suffered in her life.

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