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Madame Ranevsky (Lyobov Andreyevna)
At the start of the play, Lyobov, the main character and protagonist, is the owner of the cherry orchard. An attractive widow and the mother of two daughters, she has been a part of the Russian aristocracy. As the play begins, she has just come home from a five-year stay in Paris with her lover, who has treated her poorly. The reason for her return is to try and save the cherry orchard, which is her childhood home.
Although everyone loves Lyobov, they know that she is careless with her money, spending it on frivolous things. She gives money to a beggar when she cannot afford to feed her servants, and she hires a Jewish orchestra for a ball even though she cannot afford to pay them. Because of her financial carelessness, the cherry orchard is being foreclosed and sold at auction. Both Lyobov and her brother, Gaev, desperately want to save the estate, but they refuse to follow Lopahin's suggestion and build summer villas on the estate to rent to visitors. Lyobov is too proud and aristocratic to share her property with foreigners.
Gaev's efforts to save the cherry orchard by borrowing fifteen thousand dollars from a wealthy aunt are not adequate. At the auction, he is outbid by Lopahin, a rich merchant who used to be a slave at the cherry orchard. When Lyobov hears that he has purchased her childhood home, she is totally devastated. She weeps for the loss of her childhood home and the passing of the aristocracy to the middle class. With no place to call home in Russia, she returns to Paris to take care of her lover, who has fallen ill. Before she departs, she shows her concern as a mother. She arranges for Anya, her younger daughter, to continue her studies in Russia and asks Lopahin to marry Varya, her older daughter. She then sadly reminisces over her childhood in the cherry orchard and bids her home a final goodbye.
Gaev is Lyobov's brother, who has also squandered his money. Like Lyobov, he wants to save the cherry orchard, which is also his childhood home. In a last ditch effort to retain the estate, he borrows fifteen thousand dollars from a wealthy aunt, but it is not an adequate amount to purchase the cherry orchard at the auction.
Although Gaev loves his sister, he is also critical of her. He does not seem to approve of her liaison with her lover in Paris and calls her immoral; he also criticizes her for her extravagant spending. In many ways, however, he is much like Lyobov. He too has lost his family fortune and still does not work. In fact, when he is offered a job at the bank, he almost lets Lyobov persuade him not to take it, agreeing it is beneath him. Like Lyobov, he also clings to his aristocratic past and supports her refusal to build summer villas on the estate to rent out to foreign tourists.
Gaev has one comic trait; he has the habit of giving long, meaningless discourses, especially when he feels strongly about something. His family constantly reprimands him for this inclination towards dramatics. At the end of the play, when he has a strong urge to orally lament the loss of his childhood home, his nieces, Varya and Anya, stop him; however, he and Lyobov have one last chance to reminisce about their youth, spent in the cherry orchard, before they bid their home farewell forever.