Illustration of a chopped down cherry tree that was cut into logs

The Cherry Orchard

by Anton Chekhov
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The play starts with the return of the owner of the cherry orchard, Madame Ranevsky. What kind of past events are revealed in this act?

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The past events of the family presented at the beginning of The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov concern the downward spiral of a once rich land anded wealthy family who have no choice but to sell the family estate to pay down debt.

 The "nursery", is first to be mentioned by Madame Ranevsky - we are shown that it hasn't been used by any children for years, Madame herself has been away for five we are told. Then we learn that Lopahkin's  father had beaten him during his childhood but that Madame had shown kindness to him, wiping his face after a harsh beating. From Anya we learn that her mother continues to spend money like water. We hear that the son died at seven years old through drowning in a river. Lopakhin seems to want to forget about the past as he considers himself prosperous now, but Madame is in denial of the new situation and seems comforted by hiding in her memories of the family's glorious past and idyllic life on the estate. A new order is coming and Ravenensky is not ready - the beginning of the play is preparing us for that.

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