The cherry orchard Summary

The cherry orchard by Anton Chekhov

“The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov is a renowned play that delves into the complexities of Russian society at the turn of the 20th century. Set on a fading estate and centered around the impending sale of a cherished cherry orchard, the play explores themes of social change, nostalgia, and the human condition.

The story begins with Madame Lyubov Ranevskaya, a member of the aristocratic class, returning to her family’s estate after a prolonged absence in Paris. Accompanied by her daughter Anya and adopted daughter Varya, Madame Ranevskaya finds the estate in disrepair and on the verge of financial ruin. The family’s beloved cherry orchard, once a symbol of prosperity and tradition, is now at risk of being sold to pay off their debts.

As the play unfolds, we meet an array of characters who represent different facets of Russian society. Madame Ranevskaya’s brother, Leonid Gayev, embodies the old aristocracy, clinging to the past and struggling to adapt to changing times. In contrast, Lopakhin, a self-made businessman and former serf, represents the rising middle class and offers a solution to save the estate by converting the cherry orchard into summer cottages.

Throughout the play, Madame Ranevskaya grapples with her own sense of loss and nostalgia, reminiscing about happier times and refusing to confront the reality of their financial predicament. Her inability to let go of the past ultimately leads to the auctioning off of the cherry orchard, symbolizing the end of an era for the family and for Russian society as a whole.

“The Cherry Orchard” is a timeless masterpiece that continues to resonate with audiences for its exploration of universal themes such as the passage of time, the inevitability of change, and the human struggle to reconcile the past with the present. Through its richly drawn characters and evocative imagery, Chekhov’s play invites reflection on the fleeting nature of life and the enduring power of memory.

The Cherry Orchard Characters

“The Cherry Orchard” features a diverse cast of characters, each representing different social classes and perspectives on the changing Russian society of the early 20th century. Here are some of the key characters:

  1. Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya: The matriarch of the Ranevskaya family, Madame Ranevskaya is a wealthy aristocrat who returns to her family estate after a long absence in Paris. She is nostalgic for the past and struggles to come to terms with the reality of their financial troubles.
  2. Leonid Andreyevich Gayev: Madame Ranevskaya’s brother, Leonid Gayev is also an aristocrat who is deeply attached to the family estate and the cherry orchard. He is indecisive and finds it difficult to take action to save the estate from financial ruin.
  3. Anya: Madame Ranevskaya’s daughter, Anya is a young woman who represents the future generation. She is more practical and open-minded than her mother and uncle, willing to embrace change and adapt to new circumstances.
  4. Varya: Madame Ranevskaya’s adopted daughter, Varya is responsible for managing the household and finances. She is pragmatic and hardworking but struggles with her unrequited love for Lopakhin.
  5. Peter Trofimov: A former tutor at the Ranevskaya estate, Peter Trofimov is now a student and aspiring revolutionary. He is idealistic and critical of the aristocracy, advocating for social change and progress.
  6. Yermolai Alexeyevich Lopakhin: A wealthy businessman and former serf, Lopakhin is determined to modernize the estate and save it from financial ruin by converting the cherry orchard into summer cottages. He represents the rising middle class and embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of the new Russia.
  7. Dunyasha: A maid at the Ranevskaya estate, Dunyasha is romantically involved with Yasha and dreams of a better life. She represents the lower class and aspires to climb the social ladder.
  8. Yasha: A valet and aspiring ladies’ man, Yasha is employed by Madame Ranevskaya. He is opportunistic and self-serving, often looking out for his own interests.

These are just a few of the many characters that populate Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” each contributing to the rich tapestry of the play and offering insight into the complexities of Russian society during a time of profound change.

The cherry orchard pdf

Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” is a masterpiece of Russian literature that delves into themes of change, loss, and the passage of time. Set in the early 20th century, the play revolves around the Ranevskaya family and their beloved cherry orchard, which faces the threat of being auctioned off due to financial difficulties. Through the lens of the characters’ personal struggles and societal shifts, Chekhov paints a poignant portrait of a society in transition.

The Cherry Orchard Summary

The play opens in the early morning hours of a cool day in May in the nursery of Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya’s ancestral estate, somewhere in the provinces of Russia just after the turn of the 20th Century. Ranevskaya has been living with an unnamed lover in France for five years, ever since her young son drowned.
After receiving news that she had tried to kill herself, Ranevskaya’s 17-year-old daughter Anya and Anya’s governess Charlotta Ivanovna have gone to fetch her and bring her home to Russia. They are accompanied by Yasha, Ranevskaya’s valet who was with her in France. Upon returning, the group is met by Lopakhin, Dunyasha, Varya (who has overseen the estate in Ranevskaya’s absence), Leonid Andreyevich Gayev, Boris Borisovich Simeonov-Pishchik, Semyon Yepikhodov, and Firs.
Lopakhin has come to remind Ranevskaya and Gayev that their estate, including the cherry orchard, is due to go to auction in August to pay off the family’s debts. He proposes to save the estate by allowing part of it to be developed into summer cottages; however, this would require the destruction of their famous cherry orchard, which is nationally known for its size.
Ranevskaya is enjoying the view of the orchard as day breaks when she is surprised by Peter Trofimov, a young student and the former tutor of Ranevskaya’s son, Grisha, whose death prompted Ranevskaya to leave Russia five years ago. Much to the consternation of Varya, Trofimov had insisted on seeing Ranevskaya upon her return, and she is grief-stricken at the reminder of this tragedy.After Ranevskaya retires for the evening, Anya confesses to Varya that their mother is heavily in debt.
They all go to bed with renewed hope that the estate will be saved and the cherry orchard preserved. Trofimov stares after the departing Anya and mutters “My sunshine, my spring” in adoration.
Act II takes place outdoors in mid-summer on the family estate, near the cherry orchard. The act opens with Yepikhodov and Yasha trying for the affection of Dunyasha, by singing and playing guitar, while Charlotta soliloquizes about her life as she cleans a rifle.
In Act I it was revealed that Yepikhodov proposed to Dunyasha around Easter; however, she has since become infatuated with the more “cultured” Yasha. Charlotta leaves so that Dunyasha and Yasha might have some time alone, but that is interrupted when they hear their employer coming.
Yasha shoos Dunyasha away to avoid being caught, and Ranevskaya, Gayev, and Lopakhin appear, once more discussing the uncertain fate of the cherry orchard. Shortly Anya, Varya, and Trofimov arrive as well. Lopakhin teases Trofimov for being a perpetual student, and Trofimov espouses his philosophy of work and useful purpose, to the delight and humour of everyone around.
During their conversations, a drunken and disheveled vagrant passes by and begs for money; Ranevskaya thoughtlessly gives him all of her money, despite the protestations of Varya. Shaken by the disturbance, the family departs for dinner, with Lopakhin futilely insisting that the cherry orchard be sold to pay down the debt. Anya stays behind to talk with Trofimov, who disapproves of Varya’s constant hawk-like eyes, reassuring Anya that they are “above love”.
To impress Trofimov and win his affection, Anya vows to leave the past behind her and start a new life. The two depart for the river as Varya calls scoldingly in the background.It is the end of August, and the evening of Ranevskaya’s party has come. Offstage the musicians play as the family and their guests drink, carouse, and entertain themselves.
It is also the day of the auction of the estate and the cherry orchard; Gayev has received a paltry amount of money from his and Ranevskaya’s stingy aunt in Yaroslavl, and the family members, despite the general merriment around them, are both anxious and distracted while they wait for word of their fates. Varya worries about paying the musicians and scolds their neighbour Pishchik for drinking, Dunyasha for dancing, and Yepikhodov for playing billiards. Charlotta entertains the group by performing several magic tricks.
Ranevskaya scolds Trofimov for his constant teasing of Varya, whom he refers to as “Madame Lopakhin”. She then urges Varya to marry Lopakhin, but Varya demurs, reminding her that it is Lopakhin’s duty to ask for her hand in marriage, not the other way around. She says that if she had money she would move as far away from him as possible.
Left alone with Ranevskaya, Trofimov insists that she finally face the truth that the house and the cherry orchard will be sold at auction. Ranevskaya shows him a telegram she has received from Paris and reveals that her former lover is ill again and has begged for her to return to aid him. She says that she is seriously considering joining him, despite his cruel behaviour to her in the past. Trofimov is stunned at this news and the two argue about the nature of love and their respective experiences. Trofimov leaves in a huff, but falls down the stairs offstage and is carried in by the others.
Ranevskaya laughs and forgives him for his folly and the two quickly reconcile. Anya enters, declaring a rumour that the cherry orchard has been sold. Lopakhin arrives with Gayev, both of whom are exhausted from the trip and the day’s events. Gayev is distant, virtually catatonic, and goes to bed without saying a word of the outcome of the auction.
When Ranevskaya asks who bought the estate, Lopakhin reveals that he himself is the purchaser and intends to chop down the orchard with his axe. Ranevskaya, distraught, clings to Anya, who tries to calm her and reassure her that the future will be better now that the cherry orchard has been sold.
Several weeks later, once again in the nursery (as in Act I), the family’s belongings are being packed away as the family prepares to leave the estate forever. Trofimov enters in search of his galoshes, and he and Lopakhin exchange opposing world views. Anya enters and reprimands Lopakhin for ordering his workers to begin chopping down the cherry orchard even while the family is still in the house.
Lopakhin apologizes and rushes out to stop them for the time being, in the hopes that he will be somehow reconciled with the leaving family. Charlotta enters, lost and in a daze, and insists that the family find her a new position.
Ranevskaya tearfully bids her old life goodbye and leaves as the house is shut up forever. In the darkness, Firs wanders into the room and discovers that they have left without him and boarded him inside the abandoned house to die. He lies down on the couch and resigns himself to this fate (apparently dying on the spot). Offstage we hear the axes as they cut down the cherry orchard.

The Cherry Orchard Themes

One of the main themes of the play is the effect social change has on people. The emancipation of the serfs on 19 February 1861 by Alexander II allowed former serfs to gain wealth and status while some aristocrats were becoming impoverished, unable to tend their estates without the cheap labor of slavery. The effect of these reforms was still being felt when Chekhov was writing forty years after the mass emancipation.
Chekhov originally intended the play as a comedy (indeed, the title page of the work refers to it as such), and in letters noted that it is, in places, almost farcical.When he saw the original Moscow Art Theatre production directed by Konstantin Stanislavski, he was horrified to find that the director had moulded the play into a tragedy. Ever since that time, productions have had to struggle with this dual nature of the play (and of Chekhov’s works in general).
Ranevskaya’s failure to address problems facing her estate and family mean that she eventually loses almost everything and her fate can be seen as a criticism of those people who are unwilling to adapt to the new Russia. Her petulant refusal to accept the truth of her past, in both life and love, is her downfall throughout the play.
She ultimately runs between her life in Paris and in Russia (she arrives from Paris at the start of the play and returns there afterwards). She is a woman who lives in an illusion of the past (often reliving memories about her son’s death, etc.). The speeches by the student Trofimov, attacking intellectuals were later seen as early manifestations of Bolshevikideas and his lines were often censored by the Tsarist officials. Cherry trees themselves are often seen as symbols of sadness or regret at the passing away of a certain situation or of the times in general.
The theme of identity, and the subversion of expectations of such, is one that can be seen in The Cherry Orchard; indeed, the cast itself can be divided up into three distinct parts: the Gayev family (Ranevskaya, Gayev, Anya and Varya), family friends (Lopakhin, Pishchik and Trofimov), and the “servant class” (Firs, Yasha, Dunyasha, Charlotta and Yepikhodov), the irony being that some of them clearly act out of place – think of Varya, the adopted daughter of an aristocrat, effectively being a housekeeper; Trofimov, the thinking student, being thrown out of university; Yasha considering himself part of the Parisian cultural élite; and both the Ranevskayas and Pishchik running low on money while Lopakhin, born a peasant, is practically a millionaire.
While the Marxist view of the play is more prevalent, an alternative view is that The Cherry Orchard was Chekhov’s tribute to himself. Many of the characters in the play hearken back to his earlier works and are based on people he knew in his own life. It should also be noted that his boyhood house was bought and torn down by a wealthy man that his mother had considered a friend. The breaking guitar string in acts 2 and 4 hark back to his earliest works. Finally the classic “loaded gun” that appears in many of Chekhov’s plays appears here, but this is his only play in which a gun is shown but not fired.

“The Cherry Orchard” is rich with themes that resonate with audiences across time and cultures. One of the central themes is the passage of time and the inevitability of change. The cherry orchard itself serves as a powerful symbol of the old order, representing the fading aristocracy and the nostalgia for a bygone era. Its auction marks the end of an era and the dawn of a new social order, reflecting the broader changes occurring in Russian society at the time.

Another significant theme is the concept of loss and the inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Madame Ranevskaya and Gayev’s reluctance to acknowledge their financial reality and their refusal to embrace Lopakhin’s proposal illustrate the human tendency to cling to the past, even when faced with imminent loss.


Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” remains a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences with its exploration of universal themes such as change, loss, and the passage of time. Through its richly drawn characters and poignant narrative, the play offers profound insights into the human condition and the complexities of societal transformation. As Madame Ranevskaya and her family bid farewell to their cherished cherry orchard, they leave behind a legacy that reminds us of the inevitability of change and the importance of embracing the future with courage and resilience.

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About Hafsa Tahira

Hafsa Tahira, a passionate educator and literature enthusiast. After finishing her Postgraduate degree in Education from an international university, she is on a mission to inspire, educate, and ignite a lifelong love for learning and literature. Through her writings, discussions, and recommendations, she endeavors to make the world of literature more accessible and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of their background or experience.

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