The Cherry Orchard

by: Anton Chekhov

Yermolay Lopakhin

Lopakhin is the character, more than any other, constantly in charge of driving the play forward; he is its source of energy and action. He is a character full of details, plans, and action; he outlines a plan for Ranevsky to save her estate, offers her a loan, ends up buying the estate in the end and readily informs us of the price of champagne (Act Four). But he too, like Ranevsky, is fleeing emotionally from his memories, which are memories of his brutal peasant upbringing.

What seems to hold back his flight is his attachment to Ranevsky. In his first moments on-stage, he tells of a time when his father beat him, but he also relates Ranevsky's subsequent kindness to him. Ranevsky is a member of the same landowning class that oppressed his forefathers and is also a particularly kind figure from his days as a peasant. Lopakhin's attitude towards Ranevsky is thus ambivalent from the start. He is grateful for her "kindness," but at the same time she is a key figure in memories that he has sought to put behind him, both in his manner of dress and through constant, hard work. This tension resolves itself finally in Act Three of the play, when he buys the orchard. His insensitivity to Ranevsky is not merely the result of his peasant upbringing, and the fact that he does not end up proposing to Varya, which would make him part of Ranevsky's family, is not accidental. They both symbolize the fact that he considers himself to have broken free from, or "forgotten," his past, and this means also breaking free from and forgetting his gratitude to Ranevsky.