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Course Hero, "The Cherry Orchard Study Guide," February 27, 2017, accessed December 14, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Cherry-Orchard/.

The Cherry Orchard | Plot Summary

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Summary

The Cherry Orchard begins on a cold day in May on the estate of Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya. After a five-year absence, Lyubov Andreyevna's homecoming is much anticipated by her family, friends, and staff: her older, adopted daughter Varya; family friend Yermolai Alekseyevich Lopakhin, a wealthy merchant; her maid Dunyasha; and Semyon Panteleyevich Yepikhodov, a clerk. As they wait in a room still called the "nursery" they make last-minute preparations and lament that the train is late. Lopakhin reveals that although he is rich now, he grew up a peasant. He speaks fondly of Lyubov Andreyevna and her gentle treatment of him when he was a boy.

Lyubov Andreyevna, her younger daughter Anya, the governess Charlotta, and a footman named Yasha finally arrive. All are overcome with emotion at their homecoming. Lyubov Andreyevna's brother, Leonid Andreyevich Gayev, attends to the luggage, while his ancient servant Firs fusses over Lyubov Andreyevna and weeps with joy that she is home.

Characters come and go, reminiscing about the past and filling in details about what has happened while Lyubov Andreyevna was in Europe. Left alone Anya tells Varya of the dire financial circumstances their mother endured in Paris. They also discuss a potential engagement between Varya and Lopakhin, but Varya insists that, as a busy merchant, he does not have time for her. Anya looks forward to running through the huge cherry orchard that is the estate's crown jewel.

As the afternoon wears on Lopakhin informs the family that their worsening financial situation is even more serious now. He explains that if they do not cut down the cherry orchard and build summer cottages that they can lease for income, the entire estate, including the orchard, will be sold at auction in August. Gayev and Lyubov Andreyevna scoff at his suggestion and refuse to believe their famous orchard will be lost. Lopakhin leaves, exasperated by their refusal to do anything as trouble looms. Rather than discuss a plan of action to save the orchard, Gayev makes a speech to an "honored bookcase" because it is 100 years old. Anya and Varya scold him for talking too much.

Lyubov Andreyevna visits with more friends who have come to see her. Boris Borisovich Semyonov-Pishchik, a landowner, asks for a loan, but she has nothing to give. Pyotr Sergeyevich Trofimov, the former tutor of her son who died five years earlier, arrives looking much older. Gayev makes the unrealistic prediction that "the estate shall not be sold" as the tired travelers finally head off to sleep.

Various servants gather one day in a meadow near the cherry orchard. Yepikhodov plays the guitar; Charlotta says she does not know anything about her past; Dunyasha and Yasha flirt with each other. Then Lyubov Andreyevna, Gayev, and Lopakhin arrive talking about the fate of the cherry orchard. She and Gayev refuse to lease the land to build cottages for "summer people" because it is too "vulgar." Lopakhin is frustrated to distraction because he knows this plan is the only way to save the orchard. Still Lyubov Andreyevna and Gayev do nothing.

Lyubov Andreyevna and Lopakhin reflect on their pasts. She explains that she has always squandered money. She came to financial ruin in France at the hands of a man who abandoned her, then she tried to kill herself. Lopakhin admits that he is an uneducated peasant whose father beat him, but he has become rich. Firs enters with Gayev's overcoat, complaining that when the serfs were set free, he did not want to go.

Trofimov, Anya, and Varya arrive. Trofimov offers a critique of the "intelligentsia," intellectuals who "philosophize" but do nothing while the workers suffer. A stranger stumbles onto the scene and asks them for money, which Lyubov Andreyevna gives him to Varya's dismay since there is nothing for their own servants to eat. Trofimov and Anya are left alone. He thrills her with talk of a new future of greater social equality without the cherry orchard and the oppression it represents.

In August the group attends a dance at Lyubov Andreyevna's estate on the day of the auction to sell the cherry orchard. Everyone dances, but there is anxiety in the air about the auction. Varya weeps quietly, and Lyubov Andreyevna is anxious that Gayev and Lopakhin have been at the auction for so long. Charlotta provides comic relief by performing magic tricks and ventriloquism, which entrances family friend Pishchik.

Gayev and Lopakhin finally arrive. Gayev is unable to speak through his tears, but Lopakhin is giddy with excitement as he announces that he himself has bought the estate. Lyubov Andreyevna is overcome with emotion as Lopakhin expresses his joy and disbelief that he now owns the estate where his "father and grandfather were slaves." He can't wait to start chopping down the cherry orchard.

Lopakhin calms down and, through tears, reproaches Lyubov Andreyevna for not acting to save the orchard. She is left alone weeping bitterly. Anya and Trofimov return, and Anya tries to comfort her mother. Trofimov listens as Anya paints a picture of a hopeful future.

It is October, and moving day arrives. The nursery is empty save for some luggage and stray pieces of furniture. Lopakhin attempts to serve Lyubov Andreyevna, Gayev, and the others champagne, but they refuse. Yasha, the footman, drinks it all himself. Lyubov Andreyevna has given her money away—again—to the peasants who have come to say goodbye.

Everyone begins to scatter. Trofimov declares he will work for a class structure in which everyone is free. Lyubov Andreyevna is returning to Paris. Gayev plans to work at a bank, and Anya will finish school. The sound of an ax chopping down the cherry trees is heard.

Lopakhin has one final chance to propose to Varya, but he fails to do so. He awkwardly speaks to her about trivial matters and then leaves. She sobs quietly. She is now forced to become a housekeeper for a nearby family. Everyone is finally gone except for Firs, who is ill. They all thought he had been taken to the hospital, but he remains behind. Firs lies down on the floor to wait for the family to return. He hears the sound of a string snapping, then the distant sound of an ax cutting down a tree in the cherry orchard.

The Cherry Orchard Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675

Introduction

1 Lyubov Andreyevna and Anya return home after five years.

Rising Action

2 Lyubov Andreyevna learns her cherry orchard may be sold.

3 Lyubov Andreyevna rejects Lopakhin's plan to save it.

4 Trofimov tells Anya life will be better without the orchard.

Climax

5 Lopakhin buys the cherry orchard.

Falling Action

6 Lyubov Andreyevna and her family leave the estate forever.

Resolution

7 Firs is left behind alone in the house.

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