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Protagonist: Madame Lyobov Ranevsky, the protagonist of The Cherry Orchard, has been having an affair with a man in Paris. When the play begins, she has just returned from Paris to Russia after an absence of five years. Out of money, she has come home to face the fact that she must probably sell the cherry orchard, to which she is very attached. She is grieved that the orchard is to be sold at auction.
Antagonist: Madame Ranevsky's antagonist is selling the cherry orchard. Although she would love to retain the orchard, which was her childhood home, she is deeply in debt and can no longer afford to maintain it. Both she and her brother try to raise money from a variety of sources, but they fail miserably. In the end, the orchard is auctioned and bought by Lopahin; with not place to live in Russia, Lyobov returns to Paris to take care of her lover, who is very ill.
Climax: Throughout the first two acts, the audience is made to wonder if the Cherry Orchard will be sold, and if so, to whom. The climax of the play occurs when it is announced that Lopahin, a former slave, has purchased the orchard.
Outcome: The play is a tragedy, for Lyobov loses her beloved childhood home, the cherry orchard. She weeps when she learns it has been sold and weeps when she must finally leave.
The plot centers on the sale of the cherry orchard, Lyobov's childhood home. At the beginning of the play, the widowed Lyobov has just returned home to Russia after a long stay in Paris, where her lover resides. She and her brother, Gaev, fight unsuccessfully to save the orchard, for they do not have adequate funds to retain it.
The development of the plot is fairly straightforward and simple. Lyobov and her youngest daughter, Anya, arrive at the orchard in the first act and reunite with Lyobov's older daughter, Varya, who has cared for the house in her mother's absence. To celebrate their return, they hold a grand party, where all of the characters are introduced. In the second act, Lopahin, a local merchant, gives Lyobov ideas about how she might save the orchard; he feels the best idea would be for her to lease the estate to a foreigner. Lyobov, however, cannot accept the new way and refuses to think about a foreigner living in her childhood home. Her refusal to change will lead to the loss of the orchard.
The romantic subplots also begin to develop in the second act. Trofimov, a perpetual student, is obviously attracted to Anya, who thinks of him only as a friend. Varya is attracted to Lopahin, but he seems reticent to develop the relationship. Lyobov keeps receiving telegrams from her lover pleading with her to come back to Paris, for he is ill and needs her help. Finally, Yasha, the valet, is having an affair with Dunyasha.
In the third act, it is learned that Lyobov's efforts to save the orchard have been unsuccessful. Although she hold a dance at the house, an auction to sell the orchard is being conducted at the same time. The play reaches its climax here, when Lopahin informs Lyobov that he has bought the orchard, which shocks and upsets Lyobov. She finds it hard to believe that a former slave has purchased her childhood home.
Since she no longer has a home in Russia, Lyobov plans to go back to Paris to take care of her lover. Anya will travel with her, and Trofimov will return to study at the university; the two of them agree to remain friends. The relationship between Varya and Lopahin has not progressed to the point of a proposal, and at the end of the play, Lopahin is leaving for a few months. Only Firs is left behind to care for the estate in the house.