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The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


What is Yasha's role in The Cherry Orchard, Act 2 (Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal)?

As the servants gather early in Act 2 (Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal), Yasha, a footman, acts as if he is a clever operator who always knows the lay of the land. When Yepikhodov notes that "Abroad everything has long since been fully constituted," Yasha responds as if this is self-evident to anyone in the know: "Obviously." A few minutes later he dismisses Yepikhodov as "stupid." Yasha's attitude toward women is domineering and decidedly unsentimental. As he tells Dunyasha, who has declared love for him, "If a girl loves somebody, that means she's immoral," meaning it's easier for him to get her into bed. Dunyasha's love is just a means to an end, Yasha's sexual pleasure, not an emotion to be taken seriously. Yasha is Gayev's servant. But he actually ridicules his employer cruelly, telling Gayev to his face that "I can't help laughing when I hear your voice." Yasha has no respect for social boundaries of any kind. It is possible to interpret him as an example of the darker side of the new world: people who are ruthless opportunists with no thought of others.

In The Cherry Orchard how does Anya's view of the orchard change from Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) to Act 2 (Trofimov's Speeches)?

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) when Anya first returns from Paris, she is excited to be home, and she looks forward to running through her beloved cherry orchard. However, in Act 2 (Trofimov's Speeches) Anya's increasingly close relationship with Trofimov changes her perspective. When Trofimov presents the view of the cherry orchard as tied to the enslavement of the serfs, Anya's idealization of the orchard fades. Anya accepts the need to break with the past to begin a new future. Having seen her mother's mistreatment in Paris and her accumulation of debt, Anya is open to new ideas because she is already seeing the ruling class suffer. A new world that features education, action, and more freedom for everyone becomes an exciting opportunity to her. Thus, though she is sad to lose the orchard she is hopeful for the new world to come.

In Acts 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) and 2 (Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal) of The Cherry Orchard how does Gayev's behavior change depending on the social class of others?

In Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) Gayev identifies himself with the ruling class and Russia's historical past. So when he is surrounded by his family, his "equals," he is kind to his sister and nieces, a good if talkative and somewhat comical man. In Act 2 (Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal), however, because Gayev still sees himself as being of higher social class than ordinary people around him, he is rude. For example, he irritably waves off Yasha the footman and insults Firs, calling him a "pest" and telling him to be quiet. Gayev dismisses Lopakhin's idea of leasing the estate's land to build cottages for "summer people" because it is too "vulgar." Gayev rejects the social and economic changes in the world around him by continuing to apply an outdated heirarchy of upper and lower social classes to the people he encounters.

In Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) ofThe Cherry Orchard what is the significance of Gayev's being at the auction but not Lyubov Andreyevna and her daughters?

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) only Gayev represents the family at the auction of their family property, although Gayev, Lyubov Andreyevna, Anya, and Varya all grew up on the estate and Varya works as the estate manager. This fact suggests that in early 20th-century Russia, women did not have control over property. Because Gayev already has a job lined up at a bank, his sister and nieces are more vulnerable than he is if the estate is not saved. Along with losing their home, Varya will lose her employment and Lyubov Andreyevna will lose any means of income. Although Gayev is stuck in the past, as a man he nonetheless controls the fate of the cherry orchard and thus, the fate of his entire family and all the servants. In contrast the women are powerless.

What is the significance of Lyubov Andreyevna's putting on a dance on the day of the auction in The Cherry Orchard, Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance)?

Because she was brought up as an aristocrat who did not need to worry about money, Lyubov Andreyevna has been irresponsible with her finances even as her fortune declined. While she loves her home she continues to react to the financial crisis as though she were still a member of the leisure class. Thus her putting on a dance is consistent with her character as she is unwilling or unable to resist doing so as though her aristocratic way of life has not changed. Yet the evidence of social change surrounds her. In the past her dances were filled with other members of the aristocracy; now the swirl of dancers in the ballroom—Anya, Yepikhodov, Charlotta, Trofimov, and Pishchik—is a mix of family, servants, intellectuals, and landowners. While she waits to hear the fate of the cherry orchard, and thus of her family, the party is full of endless, pointless chatter signifying the divide between pragmatic action and ineffective talk.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) what is the purpose of Charlotta's presence at the ball?

In Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance), with the characters filled with tension and anxiety about their future, Chekhov punctuates the serious mood with lighthearted moments of comic relief. Charlotta becomes the center of attention as she performs magic, card, and even ventriloquist tricks. Charlotta's tricks keep the pace moving quickly, even though everyone there is waiting for news about the auction. This entertainment also serves to distract from the uncertainty about the sale of the estate and to prevent the sense of dread from becoming unrelenting. Nevertheless, the illusions Charlotta performs mirror the illusions of security that they, Firs, and Lyubov hold as they cling to their memories of the past, as well as the cherry orchard, and by extension the family's ability to disappear.

In The Cherry Orchard why is Varya so sad at the dance in Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance)?

In Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) Varya tries to encourage Lyubov Andreyevna by telling her that Gayev will be able to get a loan from their great-aunt in order to pay the mortgage on the cherry orchard. Varya is hoping strongly that the estate will be saved, even though she knows that it is not very likely. However, when Trofimov teases Varya that her fate is to marry Lopakhin, Varya becomes upset because she recognizes that she has no power to control her fate. Not only does she have no control over the destiny of the cherry orchard, and thus over her home and employment, but also it is up to Lopakhin whether to propose marriage to Varya. She is sad because she realizes that a woman in her position has few options for a comfortable future. Thus she can talk but she is unable to put her hopeful words to her mother into action.

In Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) of The Cherry Orchard how is Pishchik's character revealed when he says he can think only about money?

Pishchik is a fellow landowner and friend of Lyubov Andreyevna's family, and like them, he is facing debt. He has been asking them for a loan throughout the play, and at the dance he is still trying with great difficulty to collect enough money to pay his mortgage the next day. That Pishchik is another landowner consumed with financial stress is another sign that the Russian aristocracy is disappearing. Unlike Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev, however, he is not ignoring or avoiding discussion of the problem. Yet he offers some comic relief when he fancifully suggests that Nietzsche, a well-known 19th-century philosopher, approves of forging bank notes. He also becomes rattled when he thinks his money is missing only to find it promptly in the lining of his jacket. Thus both he and Gayev are prone to unrealistic musings and absent-mindedness, showing the ineffectiveness of the wealthy class in financial matters.

In Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) of The Cherry Orchard why is Varya so angry with Yepikhodov?

Already upset because Trofimov mocked her for talking about going to a convent, Varya becomes infuriated when she learns Yepikhodov has broken a pool cue. She asks why he is even at the dance and demands to know "Who gave him permission to play billiards? I don't understand these people." The source of her anger is not really the pool cue but the clash between the old and new worlds. In the past in his role as the family's clerk Yepikhodov would have been considered lower class and therefore would never have been a guest at a dance thrown by an aristocrat. Yepikhodov would certainly not have been enjoying an aristocrat's pastime of billiards, either. Normally steadfast, Varya's anger is triggered because familiar class structures are turned upside down when she sees aristocratic guests replaced by working men like Yepikhodov and the stationmaster. Given the anxiety about her and her family's future, seeing this spectacle upsets Varya.

In Act 3 of The Cherry Orchard how does Lopakhin's position regarding the future differ from Varya's?

In early 20th-century Russia Lopakhin has many options for a comfortable future. Lopakhin can attend the auction for the estate; he is not saddled by working for a family estate, himself, but free to create his own wealth; and it is his decision whether to marry Varya. Further, if Lopakhin is too absorbed in his business life to consider marriage until later he suffers no loss of position or wealth. In contrast, without employment, wealth, or a husband Varya's position is bleak. It is ironic that Lopakhin's prospects are better than Varya's because he spent his childhood as a peasant while Varya, having been born to a serf but adopted by an aristocratic family, grew up wealthy. The new world has flipped the economic status so that it is now the former peasant who has the power to build his future as the aristocracy struggles, and fails, to survive.

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