Then last year, when the villa had to be sold to pay my debts, I left for Paris where he robbed me, deserted me and took up with another woman. I tried to poison myself. It was also stupid and humiliating. Then I suddenly longed to be back in Russia, back in my own country with my little girl. [Dries her eyes.] Lord, lord, be merciful, forgive me my sins. Don't punish me any more.

The speaker is Ranevsky, and she is speaking to Trofimov, Gayev, and Lopakhin in Act Two. They are in the countryside together, discussing the imminent auction, at which Ranevsky's estate will be sold to pay her debts. She explains to them the entire sordid story of how she left for France after the drowning death of her son Grisha and was followed into exile by her lover, with whom she had been having an affair before the death of her husband. She admits here to being driven to attempt suicide at one point.

Ranevsky's description of her ordeal associates her with various characters in literature who can be labeled as sinful women." Flaubert's Emma Bovary and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina are perhaps the most famous of these. But Bovary and Karenina both die for their sins, whereas Ranevsky, however sad she may be, survives. She is thus a complicated character, and even her own brother at one point calls her a "loose" woman and implies that she has gotten what she deserves for a life of sin. This is a point where differences between Chekhov's time and ours may significantly affect the way we see his characters. A modern response to Ranevsky might be one of unmitigated pity, whereas Chekhov may have expected his audience to feel a mixture of pity and revulsion.

The awfulness of Ranevksy's recent experience also helps to explain her desire to reconnect with her past—according to her, after these events she just felt a desire to return to her "home country" once more—and casts her more irresponsible spending behavior in a more positive light. Ranevsky presents herself in this passage as a naturally loving and generous person, who is often taken advantage of by others.