The estate of the landlord Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya. Spring, cherry trees bloom. But a beautiful garden should soon be sold for debts. For the past five years, Ranevskaya and her seventeen-year-old daughter Ana have lived abroad. On the estate remained brother Ranevskaya Leonid Andreevich Gayev and her adopted daughter, twenty-four-year-old Varya. Ranevskaya’s affairs are bad, there is almost no money left. Lubov Andreevna always licked money. Six years ago her husband died of drunkenness. Ranevskaya fell in love with another person, met with him. But soon her tragically died, drowning in the river, her little son Grisha. Lyubov Andreevna, unable to endure grief, fled abroad. Lover followed her. When he got sick, Ranevskaya had to settle him at her dacha near Menton and take care of him for three years. And then, when I had to sell my dacha for debts and move to Paris,
Gaev and Varya meet Lyubov Andreyevna and Anya at the station. At home they are waiting for the maid Dunyasha and the familiar merchant Yermolai Alekseevich Lopakhin. Lopakhin’s father was a serf of Ranevsky, he became rich, but he says about himself that he remained “a peasant man”. The bailiff Yepikhodov comes, a man with whom something always happens and is nicknamed “twenty-two misfortunes”.
Finally the carriages are approaching. The house is filled with people, all in a pleasant excitement. Everyone talks about his own. Lyubov Andreevna looks at the rooms and remembers the past through tears of joy. The maid Dunyasha is impatient to tell the young lady that she has been offered the Epiphany. Anna herself advises Vary to marry Lopakhin, and Varya dreams of giving Anya for a rich man. Governess Charlotte Ivanovna, a strange and eccentric person, boasts of her amazing dog, neighbor landlord Simeonov-Pishik asks for money to borrow. Almost nothing hears and all the time mutters something old faithful servant Firs.
Lopakhin reminds Ranevskaya that the estate should soon be sold at auction, the only way out is to break the land into plots and lease them to the cottagers. Ranev’s proposal Lopakhin surprises: how can you cut down her favorite wonderful cherry garden! Lopakhin wants to stay longer with Ranevskaya, whom he loves “more than his own,” but it’s time for him to leave. Гаев addresses with a salutatory speech to hundred-year “dear” case, but then, embarrassed, again begins senselessly to say favorite billiard words.
Ranevskaya does not immediately recognize Petya Trofimov: thus he has changed, has grown dull, the “sweet student” has turned into an “eternal student”. Lubov Andreevna cries, remembering her little drowned son Grisha, whose teacher was Trofimov.
Gaev, left alone with Varya, tries to talk about business. There is a rich aunt in Yaroslavl, which, however, does not like them: in fact, Lyubov Andreevna did not marry a nobleman, and she did not behave “very virtuously”. Gaev loves his sister, but still calls her “vicious”, which causes Ani’s dissatisfaction. Gaev continues to build projects: the sister will ask for money from Lopakhin, Anya will go to Yaroslavl – in short, they will not allow the estate to be sold, Gaev even swears in it. Grumbling Firs finally takes the master, like a child, to bed. Anya is calm and happy: my uncle will arrange everything.
Lopakhin does not cease to persuade Ranevskaya and Gaeva to accept his plan. The three of them had breakfast in the city and, returning, stopped in the field by the chapel. Just now, on the same bench, Yepikhodov tried to explain himself to Dunyasha, but she already preferred him to the young cynical lackey Yasha. Ranevskaya and Gayev do not seem to hear Lopakhin and speak quite differently about other things. So in anything and not convincing “frivolous, nedalovy, strange” people, Lopakhin wants to leave. Ranevskaya asks him to stay: with him, “all the same fun.”
Anya, Varya and Petya Trofimov come. Ranevskaya starts talking about the “proud man.” According to Trofimov, there is no sense in pride: a rude, unhappy person should not admire himself, but work. Petya condemns the intelligentsia, unable to work, those people who are important philosophizing, but with peasants are treated like animals. Lopakhin enters the conversation: he is working “from morning till night,” dealing with large capitals, but more and more convinced how little around decent people. Lopakhin does not finish, Ranevskaya interrupts him. In general, everyone here does not want and can not listen to each other. There is a silence, in which the distant, sad sound of a bursting string is heard.
Soon everyone diverge. The remaining Anja and Trofimov are happy to talk together,... without Vary. Trofimov convinces Anya that it is necessary to be “above love”, that the main thing is freedom: “all Russia is our garden,” but in order to live in the present, we must first redeem the past by suffering and labor. Happiness is close: if not they, then others will necessarily see it.
It’s the twenty-second of August, the day of bidding. It was on this evening, quite inopportunely, a ball was set up in the estate, a Jewish orchestra was invited. Once there danced generals and barons, and now, as Firs complains, and the postal officer and the station’s chief “do not go hunting”. Guests are entertained by their tricks Charlotte Ivanovna. Ranevskaya with anxiety awaits his brother’s return. Yaroslavl aunt still sent fifteen thousand, but they are not enough to redeem the estate.
Petya Trofimov “calms” Ranevskaya: it’s not in the garden, it’s been finished with him for a long time, we need to face the truth. Lyubov Andreevna asks not to condemn her, to regret: because without her cherry orchard her life loses its meaning. Every day Ranevskaya receives telegrams from Paris. The first time she tore them at once, then – at first reading, now does not tear. “This wild man,” whom she still loves, begs her to come. Petya condemns Ranevskaya for her love of “a petty villain, a nonentity.” Angry Ranevskaya, unable to restrain herself, takes revenge on Trofimov, calling him “a ridiculous freak,” “monster,” “purse”: “We must love ourselves… we must fall in love!” Petya tries to escape in horror, but then he stays with Ranevskaya, who asked for his forgiveness.
At last there appear the embarrassed, joyful Lopakhin and tired Gayev, who, without telling anything, immediately leaves to himself. The cherry garden is sold, and Lopakhin bought it. “The new landlord” is happy: he managed to surpass the rich Deriganov at the auction, giving over ninety thousand debts. Lopakhin raises the keys thrown to the floor by proud Varya. Let the music play, let everyone see how Yermolai Lopakhin “has enough ax in the cherry orchard”!
Anya comforts the crying mother: the garden is sold, but a whole life ahead. There will be a new garden, more luxurious than this, a “quiet deep joy” awaits them…
The house was empty. Its inhabitants, saying goodbye to each other, leave. Lopakhin is going to winter in Kharkov, Trofimov returns to Moscow, to the university. Lopakhin and Petya exchange barbs. Although Trofimov also calls Lopakhin a “predatory beast”, necessary “in the sense of metabolism,” he still loves in him a “gentle, subtle soul.” Lopakhin offers Trofimov money for the journey. He refuses: no one should have power over the “free man”, “in the first ranks going” to “higher happiness”.
Ranevskaya and Gayev even cheered up after selling the cherry orchard. They used to worry, they suffered, but now they calmed down. Ranevskaya is going to live in Paris for money, sent by her aunt. Anya is inspired: a new life begins – she will finish the gymnasium, will work, read books, before her “a new wonderful world” opens. Simeonov-Pischik, out of breath, suddenly appears, and instead of asking for money, on the contrary, he gives out debts. It turned out that on his land the British found white clay.
All were arranged differently. Gayev says that now he is a bank employee. Lopakhin promises to find a new place for Charlotte, Varya got a job as a housekeeper for Ragulin, Yepikhodov, hired by Lopakhin, remains on the estate, Firs should be sent to the hospital. But still Gay said with sadness: “All of us leave… we suddenly became unnecessary.”
Finally, Varya and Lopakhin must at last come to an explanation. Varya has been teasing “Madame Lopakhina” for a long time already. Vary Yermolay Alekseevich likes it, but she herself can not make an offer. Lopakhin, who also speaks very well of Vary, agrees to “finish off right away” with this case. But, when Ranevskaya arranges their meeting, Lopakhin, still not daring, leaves Varya, taking advantage of the first pretext.
“It’s time to go! On the road!” – With these words they leave the house, locking all the doors. It remains only the old Firs, about which, it would seem, everyone cared, but who was never sent to the hospital. Firs, sighing that Leonid Andreevich went to a coat, and not in a fur coat, lies down to rest and lies motionless. The same sound of a bursting string is heard. “There is a silence, and only hear how far in the garden an ax is knocking on the tree.”