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The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In The Cherry Orchard, Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) how does Trofimov act toward others at the dance, and what does this behavior reveal about his character?

In Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) Trofimov is a nuisance at the dance, especially toward Pishchik, Lyubov, and Varya. He provokes them with his sarcasm and teasing. For example, Trofimov makes fun of Pishchik's worrying about money. He is sarcastic when Varya tries to comfort her mother by saying her uncle probably has bought the estate already. In pointing out these vulnerabilities Trofimov does nothing to change them or to understand the points of views of the characters who suffer from them. Trofimov should have understood that his mocking would upset Lyubov Andreyevna. He teases Varya about Lopakhin and mocks her when she talks about going to a convent when he should have realized that these remarks would sadden and anger her. So while Trofimov is a champion of the serfs freed from wealthy landowners like Pishchik and Lyubov Andreyevna, he needs to be more sensitive to all people, regardless of class.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) why does Lyubov Andreyevna lash out at Trofimov when discussing her Paris telegram and the sale of the estate?

In Act 3 (Lyubov Andreyevna Holds a Dance) Lyubov Andreyevna admits that she feels as though she "could scream ... I could do something foolish" because she is agitated waiting for the results of the auction. However, when she pleas with Trofimov to comfort her, he shrugs her off, telling her that for once "[she] must look the truth straight in the eye." She accuses Trofimov of feeling bold about the future only because he is young, inexperienced, and lacks empathy. Further, she points out that he "doesn't do anything" yet he feels free to judge her. When Trofimov mentions her lover's mistreatment of her in France, Lyubov Andreyevna scolds him for talking like "a schoolboy." She has no use for Trofimov's lofty ideas about the future that lack specific plans or generosity of spirit toward others. On the other hand, even if he has been too critical of Lyubov Andreyevna there is no avoiding the fact that he has hit a nerve.

In Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) of The Cherry Orchard how does Firs feel about the dance, and what do these feelings reveal about his character?

In Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) Firs has three main reactions to the dance, all which are reminders of his symbolic role in the play as one of the last remnants of the old world. First, he recalls that in the past "we used to have generals, barons, admirals, dancing at our balls, but now we send for the post-office clerk and the stationmaster, and even they are none too eager to come." So he, too, is dismayed by the fading of the aristocracy. Second, though Firs feels unwell, he insists he must stay to work rather than retire to bed because he believes his role is pivotal in the household. Without him, he says, "Who will serve, who will see to things?" Thus, he continues to tie his identity solely with the household of the estate, even on the day of the auction. Finally, when Lyubov asks where he will go if the estate is sold, Firs replies, "Wherever you tell me to go, I will go." After a lifetime of giving or following orders, Firs has no means of adjusting to a world without serving this family and their estate. As he observed in Act 2, freedom from serfdom did not give him freedom from the old social order.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) how do different characters respond to the sale of the estate while waiting for Gayev and Lopakhin to return?

In Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) Chekhov uses the swirling reactions of the different characters for comedic effect to build to the climax. Characters reveal who they really are as the past collides with the present. Firs worries that Gayev does not have a proper overcoat because the temperature is now cold. Yasha the footman ambitiously asks Lyubov to take him to Paris because he now finds the estate too "uncivilized." Pishchik uses the delay to once again seek a loan from Lyubov Andreyevna. Dunyasha the maid is excited by being admired on the dance floor. Yepikhodov continues to flirt and play the hopeless romantic until Varya furiously throws him out for wandering "about the drawing room as though [he] were a guest" rather than a servant. It is Varya's last gasp as the estate manager, though she is undermined as Yepikhodov mutters on his way out, "I shall lodge a complaint against you!"

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) why is Lopakhin overcome with emotion when he buys the cherry orchard?

Lopakhin is dazed in Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) because buying the cherry orchard is more than a business transaction for him. It is a historic act that he as a peasant, someone descended from serfs, has been successful enough in his life to be able to afford a competitive bid for a grand estate. While Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev could not even pay their mortgage, Lopakhin was able not only to pay the debt but also to pay an additional 90,000 rubles "for the most beautiful estate in the whole world!" That the estate is where his grandfather and father were slaves in the past, "where they weren't even allowed in the kitchen," is an astonishing emblem of how much the new world has changed from the old world. In his speech about the purchase he also seems to view the act almost as revenge for the years of his family's serfdom.

Once Lopakhin announces his purchase of the estate in Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over), how does Chekov introduce new suspense into The Cherry Orchard?

In Act 3 (Lopakhin Takes Over) Lopakhin leaves for the ballroom with Pishchik, but before the act ends the focus returns to Lyubov Andreyevna. She is weeping bitterly when Anya hurries to her and reassures her mother that she still has her life to live. Anya gently tells her mother to accept that the cherry orchard is sold and turn her attention to the future: "We'll plant a new orchard, more luxuriant than this one." While this ideal is unlikely to happen, the audience is left wondering what Lyubov Andreyevna will do. Where will she go? Will she return to Paris? Will she adapt her values of old Russia to the values of new Russia? What will Anya do? This creates new suspense in the play, now that the fate of the cherry orchard is known.

Why does The Cherry Orchard open and close in the same setting, the nursery?

At the beginning of Act 1 (Lopakhin's Plan) Lopakhin and Dunyasha are in the nursery on a cold spring day in May; the cherry trees are blossoming as they wait for Lyubov's arrival after she collects her luggage from the train station. In Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) the scene is reversed. The orchard is no longer in bloom. Lopakhin is in the nursery on a sunny fall day in October, waiting for Lyubov Andreyevna and the rest of her family to leave, her luggage stacked in the background for her to take with her to the train station. The nursery is almost empty with no curtains or pictures on the walls, a room stripped of what it used to be. The play's action has come full circle, moving from spring, a time of renewal, although with the foreshadowing of a touch of frost, to the literal fall of the orchard, along with the fall of the ruling class.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) how does Lopakhin reveal competing emotions in his behavior, and what do they reveal about his place in the world?

In Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) Lopakhin veers from humility and fondness to insensitivity, bewilderment, and discomfort to joy, eagerness, and restlessness—all in just a few lines. Lopakhin still straddles two worlds in his competing emotions and behaviors. He is humble in offering champagne out of fondness to Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev before they depart, but he becomes puzzled when they refuse, not realizing his insensitivity to their emotions. Accustomed to being penniless in his youth, he also is awkward in having offered cheap champagne and yet he wants to save it when they turn it down. At the same time Lopakhin is celebratory about his own success. He is eager to destroy the cherry trees immediately in order to begin his new venture of building and leasing cottages on the estate. And he is restless, stating, "I can't live without work, I don't know what to do with my hands." Thus he is happy to take control as a representative of the new business class, but he does not seem to understand the full extent of the pain the transition from the old to new world has caused those around him.

What is the significance of Trofimov's discussion with Lopakhin about the changing world in turn-of-the-century RussiaIn in The Cherry Orchard, Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up)?

In Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) Trofimov's and Lopakhin's final discussion of the play reveals two competing views of the future, but still respect for each other. True to form, thinker and tutor Trofimov offers what he most values to Lopakhin: words of advice. The practical, "half literate," and upwardly mobile Lopakhin offers what he most values to Trofimov: money. The exchange between the two men suggests that Trofimov has the broader social and economic ideas that Lopakhin lacks, while Lopakhin is capable of the practical action that Trofimov lacks. Neither man manages to really understand the other's point of view. Trofimov turns down Lopakhin's loan in favor of insisting on being a free man in pursuit of "the highest truth," then is brought down to earth by having to search for a practical item, his galoshes. Lopakhin thinks Trofimov is a bit pretentious and will get nowhere, failing to see the value in Trofimov's passion and sense of a world outside of making money.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) in what ways have Gayev and Lyubov changed or remained unchanged?

In Act 4 of The Cherry Orchard (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) Gayev and his sister are more stoic as they finally deal with the reality that they have lost the cherry orchard. They have packed their belongings and, though pale, Lyubov Andreyevna no longer weeps. They feel a sense of relief that they can see their future path more clearly now. On the other hand Lyubov has given away her purse of coins to the servants, a kind, generous gesture that she cannot afford. She says she can't help herself—that is, she cannot change—when Gayev fusses at her for her reckless extravagance. Yet Gayev did not make decisions or take meaningful action to determine their fate. Although he is about to take a job with a bank, no one has faith that he will keep it. Neither character has undergone a fundamental change.

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