Anya is the daughter of the protagonist of The Cherry Orchard, Lyubov Andreyevna while twenty-four-year old Varya is her adopted daughter who manages the household. Anya is a happy, bright, even though slightly immature teenager. Varya, on the other hand, is the simpering and grumbling, yet sincere, and loyal housekeeper of the estate. Both of them have one thing in common, i.e. their unquestioned love for Lyubov Andreyevna.
When the play opens, Anya returns with her mother from Paris, while Varya has been running the cherry orchard economically and diligently in the absence of Lyubov Andreyevna. The estate is up for auction on account of the heavy mortgages and debts resulting from the extravagant and reckless lifestyle of Lyubov Andreyevna and her brother Gayev. A self-made peasant, Lopakhin, is waiting in the wings to acquire the estate because he knows that despite his well-meaning reminders and practical suggestions, “the rattlebrained” brother-sister duo are unable to rise to the occasion: they can’t even raise the interest on mortgage. He is, therefore, wailing in the house for Lyubov Andreyevna and Anya to arrive when the play opens.
Anya is excited to be back at the family estate, as is her mother. Varya has made all the arrangements to receive them in her usual quiet and efficient manner. This makes Lyubov Andreyevna remark, “Varya is just the same as she’s always been she still looks like a nun. Anya is tired because she says she hasn’t slept for four whole nights during the train journey from Paris to Moscow. Varya receives her solicitously: “My precious is here, my beautiful darling has come back.” And she sees to it that Anya is comfortable. Anya complains of the company of Charlotta Ivanovna, who had been sent to Paris as her governess, but Varya assures her, “You couldn’t have gone all alone, my precious. At seventeen!”
Anya describes the pitiable condition in which she found her mother who had gone to Parish in order to be with her sick and roguish lover and the manner in which she has been recklessly spending money that she got from the sale of her dacha in Mentone. Varya knows about all this, but asks her not to worry herself by talking about it. Things at home have been equally bad because they haven’t even been able to pay interest on the mortgage.
Varya and Lopakhin
Anya talks to Varya about the interest Lopakhin has shown in her and whether they are planning to marry. On her part, she is open about her infatuation for Trofimov, “the eternal student”, who has been her dead brother Grisha’s tutor. But Varya tells her, “I don’t know anything will come of it. He has so many things to do he hasn’t one bit of time for me... We and he just pay one bit of attention to me, either. God help him, I’ve had enough. It bothers me just to see him....Everyone is talking about our wedding and offering congratulations, but in fact there’s nothing to it. It’s all like a dream.”
A certain lack of seriousness in Lopakhin’s relationship with Varya is suggested in the beginning when he suddenly peers round the door at Varya and Anya and makes a mooing sound, to which Varya responds with a tearful threat of violence. Later, she “crossly” tells him that it is time he left. Lopakhin’s jibe about Ophelia hits very near the mark and her obvious distress (“He scared me, my heart is beating so”) may not be entirely due to the encounter with the shabby stranger. When she aims a blow at Lopakhin, mistaking him for Yepichodov, Varya apologizes (angrily and sarcastically) and when Lopakhin announces that he has bought the estate, Varya demonstratively throws her keys on the floor and walks out. It is clear that throughout the play, there is constant tension between the couple. The adopted daughter’s displays of anger stem from insecurity: in each case there lies behind them a linking of the self-made peasant Lopakhin to the household. For his part, Lopakhin will not necessarily do what is expected of him, particularly, if there is pressure from a lady for whom he entertains such ambiguous feelings, as he shows for Lyubov Andreyevna.
Anya and Trofimov
On the other hand, Anya is totally in love with the poor, unkempt Petya Trofimov. She’s excited to learn that he has already arrived in the house to receive he and Lyubov Andreyevna on their return from
. Dressed “in a threadbare students’ uniform” and “wearing spectacles”, Trofimov fascinates Anya even when he confesses that an old peasant woman on the train called him “that old used-up gentleman”. While everyone around, particularly Lopakhin and Varya make fun of him, Anya is infatuated with the idealist Trofimov, who can philosophize and speak on abstract topics as well as offer candid comments on the persons and the situations they face in the play. He tells them: “The one thing we must do is to work and do all we can for those who seek the truth. Here in Russia very few people really work now”. When she expresses her apprehensions of losing the cherry orchard, he consoles her by telling her that she, her parents and her forefathers have been looking at the expense of the people and it’s time they made a clean break with the past. Even if she’s given the keys of the house, Anya should throw them away. “Be free like the wind”, he advises her and tells her that, though he is not yet thirsty, he has gone through a lot. Paris
In this sense, Trofimov brings about a radical change in Anya even though he’s not clear of the final picture that would emerge. Nevertheless, he can feel it: “There is happiness; there it comes, coming nearer, always nearer. I can already hear its footsteps.” As for Varya, he considers her “too much the fanatic”. He tells Lyubov Andreyevna that he is “far beyond vulgarity like love. We are above love!” He finally succeeds in convincing Anya about “the beginning of a new life” for both of them and she stays back with him and tells Lyubov Andreyevna. “You’ll come back soon...isn’t that so ? I’m going to study and pass my school examinations, and then I’ll go to work and help you. Mama, we’ll read all kinds of books together...isn’t that so...We shall read during the autumn evenings, we’ll read through lots of books and a new marvelous world will open up before us....” While Anya heads for “a new marvelous world” at the end of the play, a neglected and simpering Varya, who always talks “through tears”, prepares to join another family, the Rasgulins, as housekeeper.