The Cherry Orchard: Novel Summary: Act IV
In the final act, pictures and curtains are removed, and the furniture is stacked against the walls by a door to the hall. It is October now and winter approaches. While saying goodbye to the estate's peasants Madame Ranevsky gives them her purse and her brother Gayef says "thank you my lads, thank you" (40). She attempts to call them back to drink the champagne that Lopakhin has brought from town, but they refuse. Yasha drinks the champagne but declares the vintage inferior. Trophimof comes in searching for his galoshes. He says the carriages to take them to the train station are waiting outside. He plans on returning to the university in Moscow. They joke about how old he is still to be a student. He becomes annoyed but they nevertheless say goodbye as friends. He also refuses Lopakhin's champagne and his offer of money. Barbara throws a pair of galoshes his way ("here take your garbage away"), and Lopakhin offers him money out of respect and not pity. Trophimof tells Lopakhin that since he is a free man, he cannot accept his money. Besides, he has managed to make money from translations. In the background, axes can be heard chopping down the cherry orchard. Anya comes in to ask that the men be told to stop working until after the family has left: the noise is bothering her mother. Lopakhin feels chagrined and runs off: "I'll stop them at once. What fools they are" (42).
When Anya inquires about the elderly servant's health, Yasha tells her that he believes Firs has been taken to the hospital. Unwilling to take his word for it, she asks Ephikhodof to find out for sure. Yasha feels insulted. Ephikhodof wishes that he himself could be as close to death as Firs. Barbara enters then, inquires about Firs and wonders if Firs indeed has gone to the hospital why did he not take the note for the doctor with him. Anya leaves to send the note. Barbara also leaves as Dunyasha enters crying because Yasha is leaving. Greatly excited about finally returning to Paris with his mistress, Yasha ignores the heartbroken servant Dunyasha.
Madame Ranevsky, excited now about starting a new life, enters with Gayef, Anya, and Charlotte. Gayef is happy about his new banking job. Anya is excited about going off to study at the university. She and her mother talk about the next time they will see each other, and Madame Ranevsky makes a promise to Charlotte to get her a new governess position. The neighbor Pishtchik comes in then and pays Madame Ranevsky forty pounds against the eighty-four pounds he owes her. He has leased some of his land containing valuable clay to two Englishmen. Then he breaks down crying after realizing this is really goodbye. Madame Ranevsky busies herself with last minute tasks and Anya tells her that Yasha sent Firs to the hospital. Madame Ranevsky tells Lopakhin that he really should propose to Barbara "she loves you; you like her," and he is still agreeable (46). By this time, Yasha has drunk all the champagne.
After the others have left, Lopakhin remains, and when Barbara enters he inquires about her future plans. She tells him she has taken a job as a housekeeper and once more Lopakhin leaves without proposing. She sits down on the floor and cries but then everyone comes back, picks up luggage, and says their goodbyes once more. One by one they leave the room until only Madame Ranevsky and Gayef are left. They stand remembering happier times until Anya calls and Madame Ranevsky states "we're going and not a soul will be left here," and together they leave the room. (47). The doors are locked from outside but the old servant Firs, who has inadvertently been left behind, enters, says he doesn't feel well, lies down upon a bench and mutters: "life has gone by as if I never lived" (49). In the background the sound of axes chopping can be heard.
The final Act IV is set by a door to the hall. The sale of the cherry orchard has affected all the characters' lives in different ways. While Trophimof has remained quiet about Lopakhin's dealings concerning his acquisition of the cherry orchard, it is clear that Trophimof respects the former serf. Lopakhin is, after all, the epitome of what hard work, or action as Trophimof terms it, can achieve. And, although Lopakhin has teased Trophimof unmercifully for being the perpetual student, it is clear by the end that the new landlord has affection for the scholar. Lopakhin offers Trophimof a gift of money out of respect, not pity. It is indeed an odd friendship but we can accept it as sincere because the men will not have any future interactions. However, lest we soften toward Lopakhin and think him kind, we must remember his parting from Barbara whom he has led on to get on the good side of Madame Ranevsky. Indeed, he has promised to marry her but always at the last moment he backs out of proposing. Barbara will now be relegated to the role of servant. Anya, who is happy to be leaving with Trophimof, will attend the university and then will possibly live life as a teacher. We can be sure that she will no longer live the life of luxury she has known all her life as an aristocrat. Similarly, Charlotte will have to return to the trenches, so to speak, and take up childcare once more. Gayef also has a job for the first time in his life and chances are he will succeed as a banker because he seems optimistic. The neighbor Pishtchik, who was forlorn because of his poor financial prospects, will continue to live well. Madame Ranevsky and the self-serving servant Yasha seem destined to spend the rest of their days together. While we can appreciate distinct change, or growth, within some of the play's characters, Madame Ranevsky does not seem to change at all. Indeed, she gives her purse to the peasants as if her life as an aristocrat has not changed at all and she plans to return to Paris to her abusive lover and continue to lose the rest of her money-with the help of Yasha.
The former serf, Firs, has the final word in the play. It is not clear, but we can assume that Firs has died alone and forgotten despite a life of service to a family who never appreciated him. Firs' death alone, while his former masters make their way in the "new" world now as workers, represents the end of the former feudal way of Russian life "so life in this house is over now" (47).