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The Cherry Orchard | Study Guide

Anton Chekhov

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The Cherry Orchard | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


In The Cherry Orchard, Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) what is the significance of Pishchik's final appearance in the play?

In Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) fellow landowner and friend Pishchik rushes in, out of breath and shoving money into Lopakhin's and Lyubov Andreyevna's hands. He is paying back his debts after coming into prosperity again. Pishchik is giddy as he explains to the group that he has had the good fortune of having some Englishmen find valuable clay on his property, and he has leased his land to them. Pishchik provides comic relief as he rambles on obliviously about paying off more of his debts without noticing the emptiness of the nursery. At the same time his arrival on the day of departure for Lyubov Andreyevna and her family establishes an interesting contrast between their situations. Always more take-charge than Lyubov Andreyevna or Gayev, Pishchik does not hesitate to lease his land to make money. Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev are leaving their property due to their inaction and distaste for "vulgar" business dealings. Pishchik, another aristocrat who was struggling to pay his mortgage, manages to save himself from ruin by taking action.

What role does Yasha play in The Cherry Orchard, Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up)?

In Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) Yasha is introduced to provide temporary comic relief from the drama of the orchard's being chopped down, even before the family has departed. First, even though he himself is Lyubov Andreyevna's and Anya's footman he feels free to offer his opinion of the commoners who have come to say goodbye to the family. They are "good-natured, but they don't know much," he says, as though he is superior to them. He declares that he has "had enough of this ignorance," meaning living in Russia, and praises Paris instead. He complains pretentiously that Lopakhin's champagne is so cheap that "it's not the real stuff." Nonetheless, Yasha, always on the lookout to satisfy his own appetites, amusingly proceeds to drink it all as Lopakhin wonders what became of it.

What does Lopakhin's hesitation over proposing marriage to Varya reveal about him in Act 4 (Firs Is Left Behind) of The Cherry Orchard?

In Act 4 (Firs Is Left Behind) Lyubov Andreyevna directly requests that Lopakhin propose marriage to her daughter Varya. In the old world of the Russian aristocracy, arranged marriages between members of the moneyed class were common. Lopakhin says that he will propose—if there's time. After looking for champagne and finding it gone, he then checks his watch, pauses, watches Varya as she looks for her housekeeping papers, and finally exits. Even Lopakhin cannot explain why marriage isn't what he's looking for at this time. It may be that not having grown up as an aristocrat, arranged marriages such as this don't feel natural to him. Perhaps buying the estate has not changed who he is fundamentally, despite the rise in social status that buying it represents. Lopakhin is very much his own man. By refusing to propose to Varya, he may be refusing to tie himself to the past that Varya's family represents by marrying into it.

In Act 4 of The Cherry Orchard how does Anya's view of the future contrast with her mother's view?

In Act 4 Anya is joyful in saying goodbye to her old home and own life, eager to pursue a new future of studying and "reading all sorts of books." Anya feels that "a new and wonderful wood will open up" for her and her mother. Lyubov Andreyevna is far more sentimental about saying goodbye to the house, which has been in her family for generations, and the dead cherry orchard, a symbol of her youth and happiness. She also is more uneasy about the future than Anya because she knows the money she has from her great-aunt won't last long. Without property, education, employment, or a husband, her life could become bleak soon. However, Lyubov Andreyevna remains fairly cheerful, so she hasn't given into despair.

In Act 4 of The Cherry Orchard how is Chekov's presentation of Lyubov Andreyevna, Lopakhin, and Trofimov representative of realism?

Chekov's presentation of Lyubov Andreyevna, Lopakhin, and Trofimov in Act 4 is representative of realism because Chekhov treats all three characters even-handedly, without passing judgment on them. They are also three-dimensional characters, as in real life, with a mixture of virtues and flaws. Regardless of their backgrounds or faults, none of these characters is presented as heroic or as villainous. Chekov sometimes shows them as sentimental (Lyubov Andreyevna), insensitive (Lopakhin), or absentminded (Trofimov), but always as deserving of understanding. While Lyubov Andreyevna, an aristocrat, has suffered loss, at the end of the play she still has a life—and some means—to live. Lopakhin is the "big winner" by purchasing the orchard for its business opportunity; however, he is stunted when it comes to love. Trofimov is happy to continue with his ways as a scholar with revolutionary, though unrealistic, ideals that he may not be able to act upon. Chekhov reveals the holes in each of the three character's thinking without condemning them, thus presenting them as if they are real human beings.

In Act 4 of The Cherry Orchard what is Lyubov Andreyevna's major character flaw, and how does it affect the outcome of the play?

In Act 4 Lyubov Andreyevna decides to return to Paris. This is a return to a past that left her in worse condition than when she first left the estate five years earlier. Her living in the past is a major character flaw that inhibits her ability to manage her future. As the lady of the estate, Lyubov Andreyevna's flaw effects both of her daughters, her brother, and the servants she is responsible for. Anya is hopeful, Gayev has a job at a bank, and Yasha is happy to return to Paris with Lyubov Andreyevna. But Varya has to take work as a housekeeper; Charlotta has nowhere to go; and Lyubov Andreyevna's most long-term and loyal servant, Firs, is left behind completely.

In Act 4 (Firs Is Left Behind) of The Cherry Orchard what is the significance of Firs lying motionless as he hears a string snapping and an ax chopping?

In Act 4 (Firs Is Left Behind) Firs speaks the last words of the play, which ends with his lying unmoving on the stage. The sad sound of the snapped string, which Firs said he first heard when serfs were emancipated decades earlier, signals a major change as commercial enterprise overtakes the cherry orchard. Whether alive or dead, forgotten, or simply left behind, Firs's final act of lying down symbolizes the passing of the old order in Russia. Despite his long service and loyalty to generations of the same aristocratic family, Firs has nowhere to go. The emancipation of the serfs offers no solutions for a servant who has simply grown old, tired, and sick. The thud of an ax cutting down a cherry tree in the orchard contrasts with Firs's stillness. He represents the last gasp of an old class system as it passes in favor of new economic and social forces.

In The Cherry Orchard, Act 4 (Firs Is Left Behind) how does Firs's decision to remain in the locked house reflect his own feelings about emancipation?

In Act 4 (Firs Is Left Behind) Firs not only observes that the house is locked but also that the others have gone away. He realizes that everyone has forgotten about him. Chekov uses Firs as a symbol of the past way of life. In Act 2 (Lyubov Andreyevna's and Gayev's Refusal) Firs remarks that he didn't like the end of serfdom and claims that he wouldn't consent to his own freedom, preferring the ordered world of masters and serfs. Clinging to the past he becomes its prisoner. In his own mind he was never free, preferring what to him was the dignity and familiarity of servitude. With the demise of the aristocracy, he is ready for his own demise. For Firs it would appear that doors to a truly free future were always locked and there is nowhere left to go.

In Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) of The Cherry Orchard how does the relationship to money shape the destiny of each major character?

In Act 4 (Lyubov Andreyevna Packs Up) the destinies of all of the characters are tied to money. Lyubov Andreyevna is still giving money away (to the peasants who come to say goodbye in this part of Act 4), even when she doesn't have it to spare. She hasn't changed and is returning to the city she arrived from at the beginning of the play (Paris). She winds up having to live on the insufficient sum Gayev borrowed from their great-aunt in his doomed attempt to save the estate. Having never worked before, Gayev has to take a middle-class job at a bank to earn wages. Having grown up a peasant, Lopakhin works hard to make more and more money in order to leave serfdom in his family behind forever, even though it leaves him with no time for love. Varya is destitute without money and has to travel 50 miles for a lowly job (Act 4, Firs Is Left Behind). Anya and Trofimov are proud to not earn much money as long as they can study and read.

Why did Chekov insist that The Cherry Orchard is a comedy?

The Cherry Orchard has many elements of a tragedy. Lyubov Andreyevna lost not only her husband but her young son drowned. Later a lover mistreated her by taking her money. In desperation she tried to kill herself. Now she and her family are about to lose their home and be left with almost no money. Lyubov Andreyevna's circumstances are undeniably tragic. Chekov subtitled the play "A Comedy in Four Acts," but where is the comedy in this situation? In a traditional tragedy, characters die. Comedies generally end with marriage, symbolizing new life. By the end of Chekov's play, everyone is still alive and moving on with their lives. There may be some hope for them. In addition the play is full of absurd comic moments (Yasha drinking all the champagne; Gayev lecturing a bookcase) that make it impossible to label it as a pure tragedy. The play also has a subtle, darker humor where human motivations and actions are concerned. Characters often bring folly on themselves or don't recognize their own flawed thinking. For example, Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev's refusal to save their estate is exasperating. Nor does Lopakhin understand the effect on them when he buys the estate he tried to convince them to save. In Act 1 he declares that due to Lyubov Andreyevna's kind treatment of him as a child he can forget about the fact that his father and grandfather were her family's serfs. But as soon as he buys the estate Lopakhin crows that now he owns the land that was used to enslave his ancestors. Later he is surprised when Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev refuse to drink his champagne. What is comedic in The Cherry Orchard is people's blindness to their own flaws.

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