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The setting of the second act is a decaying shrine located on Lyobov's estate; the setting is symbolically significant. Just like the shrine, the old Russian class system is in a state of decay. Lyobov, however, refuses to accept the changes; she tenaciously holds to her old upper class ways and beliefs. During the act, she again acknowledges that she could never let foreigners stay on her property. She also tells her brother, Gaev, that he should not take a job working for someone else and criticizes Lopahin for going to the theater to see plays. It is also appropriate that this act takes place at sunset, which signifies that close of a day; symbolically, it represents the close of an era, for Lyobov is about to lose her childhood home.
The mood of the entire act is introspective and melancholic. When the act opens, Epihodov is strumming on his guitar and singing a sad song. Charlotta talks about her feeling alone in the world and how she does not even know her own age; obviously, her usual merriment and tricks are a cover-up to the sadness that she really feels inside. Epihodov again reveals his affection for Dunyasha, who completely spurns his advances; as a result, he questions what meaning life holds for him. Dunyasha believes that she is in love with Yasha and tells him so; however, she reveals her uncertainty about the relationship when she tells him that she is a sensitive soul who would be crushed if he should ever deceive her.
Lyobov grows dramatic during the act. She talks about her past life and her many sins; she is sure that her present situation and the possible loss of her childhood home are her punishment for the things she has done wrong. She also tells how she has always let her lover in Paris take advantage of her; now, however, he is begging her to return, for he is ill and wants her to care for him. She seems determined to resist. She tears up another telegram from him, in the same way she did in the first act.
During the act, Lyobov reprimands Gaev for talking too much in front of the waiters at the restaurant; it is a flashback to the first act, when Anya and Varya tell their uncle to quit talking so much. It is obvious that he has a habit of becoming very excited about a particular topic and raving about it for an extended period of time. In his excitement, he never thinks about who may be listening to his ranting and raving.