Varya enters. She tells Dunyasha to leave and then launches against Yephikodov, telling him that he does no work at all. She wonders aloud why they even keep a clerk. Yephikodov is deeply offended, especially by the last remark; he haughtily tells her that such things are "for wiser and older heads" than Varya's to decide. Varya is incensed at Yephikodov's words. She tells him to leave instantly. He asks her to "express herself in a more refined manner," but he is clearly frightened. And he has good reason to fear, because Varya moves towards him, threateningly. As she does so, he leaves, but from behind the doorway he tells her he will lodge a complaint. She hears a noise in the hall and, believing him to be coming back, grabs a stick and lashes out.
But Lopakhin enters instead, receiving the end of her stick. Lopakhin and Gayev have returned from the auction. As Lopakhin and Gayev enter, Lopakhin is visibly happy; Gayev is tired and upset and soon leaves. In response to a question by Ranevsky, Lopakhin lets everyone know that he bought the orchard at auction. Furthermore, he plans to go through with his plans for cutting down the cherry orchard and building cottages in its place.
Ranevsky is heartbroken. Varya throws down the keys to the estate and leaves. Lopakhin reflects out loud on how he, the son of local peasants, has come to own the great estate his father and grandfather once worked on, the estate of those who once owned his father and grandfather, and how he will implement changes now that he is in charge.
During his speech, Ranevsky quietly weeps. He goes up to her, but instead of consoling her, he is reproachful. He asks her why she didn't listen to him and says, "my poor dear friend, you can't turn back the clock now." Pischik takes him by the arm and escorts him out of the room.
When he leaves, Anya consoles her mother. She tells her mother that she loves her, and she still has a life to live. And she tells her that they will plant a new cherry orchard, a better one, and that after they do this they will all "smile again."
Lopakhin's revelation, that he has bought the orchard, is the climax of the play. If we wish to read it as a tragedy, then this is the play's catastrophe, its horrific event. But, Chekhov handles the situation comically. Lopakhin waits until the last possible moment to reveal that is was he who bought the orchard. Always the man of facts and figures, he recounts the auction in detail and with glee, including the amount of each bid. As he leaves, he nearly knocks over a candelabra from a table, but instead of being self-conscious about his clumsiness and recognizing it as a sign of his peasant origins, he reacts nonchalantly, saying, "I can pay for everything now." The key word here is "now." Lopakhin's triumph is his final escape from his past and from his memory; his purchase of the orchard is proof that he is the rich businessman he is now, and not the peasant child he remembers himself as being then. Lopakhin's mentioning of his grandparents is of particular interest, for in the moment of the greatest separation from his past he seems not to forget but instead to remember. He ponders, if his grandfather and grandmother "could only rise from their graves to see what has happened" and witness that their grandson, who "used to run around barefoot," is now the owner of the orchard, the place where his grandparents were treated as slaves. But such memories are safe for Lopakhin now, because the implication is that his grandparents would not recognize him: he has proven to their memory, as well as to himself, that he is no longer a peasant.