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She brought me over to the wash-stand here in this very room, the nursery as it was. 'Don't cry, little peasant,' she said. "You'll soon be as right as rain." [Pause]. Little peasant. It's true my father was a peasant, but here am I in my white waistcoat and brown boots, barging in like a bull in a china shop. The only thing is, I am rich.
The speaker here is Lopakhin, in Act One. He is waiting in the nursery, with Dunyasha, for Ranevsky to arrive from the train station. The "she" in the passage is Ranevsky, and the passage does a great deal to characterize both her and Lopakhin, and the relationship between them. This relationship is the central relationship in The Cherry Orchard. The quote is taken from a longer passage in which Lopakhin worries about falling asleep in the nursery, when he should have been going out to meet Ranevsky at the train station. This worrying, plus his reference to himself as a "bull in a china shop," show Lopakhin to be self-conscious about his humble origins and lack of social graces. But he knows he has social status, and as if to demonstrate his bluntness, he reminds himself of where this status comes from—his money. When he talks about Ranevsky, he remarks, as everyone will do, on her kindness. But there is a note of tension here; he pauses when he remembers how she referred to him as "a peasant," as if he hears the note of condescension in her voice. Lopakhin has risen in social status since that encounter, and Ranevsky has fallen. It is important to note that it is Lopakhin the wealthy businessman, who has difficulty remembering the word "peasant." It shows that Lopakhin is conflicted between his status as a businessman and his status as a former peasant—between his present and his past. It also foreshadows Ranevsky's own inner conflict between her present and her own past.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Cherry Orchard!