The Cherry Orchard

by

Anton Chekhov

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Firs Nikolayevitch Character Analysis

Firs is the extremely elderly butler whose staunch allegiance to Ranevsky and Gayef—and lamentation of the fact that serfs were ever liberated from their landowning masters—represents the inability of the eldest members of the lower classes to adapt to the social change sweeping Russia. Firs is clearly suffering from advanced dementia throughout the play—he mumbles to himself, treats Gayef as if he were a small boy, and is desperately hard of hearing to boot—and yet the other characters treat him as a nuisance. In the end, Firs, who is ill and needs to be taken to the doctor, is left in the empty house after everyone has gone, reflecting the abandonment and isolation social change afflicts on those most in need of support who are so often left behind.

Firs Nikolayevitch Quotes in The Cherry Orchard

The The Cherry Orchard quotes below are all either spoken by Firs Nikolayevitch or refer to Firs Nikolayevitch. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Change Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Thrift edition of The Cherry Orchard published in 1991.
Act 1 Quotes

MADAME RANEVSKY: Cut down the cherry orchard! Excuse me, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. If there is one thing that’s interesting, remarkable in fact, in the whole province, it’s our cherry orchard.

LOPAKHIN: There’s nothing remarkable about the orchard except that it’s a very big one. It only bears once every two years, and then you don’t know what to do with the fruit. Nobody wants to buy it.

GAYEF: Our cherry orchard is mentioned in Andreyevsky’s Encyclopaedia.

[…]

FIRS: In the old days, forty or fifty years ago, they used to dry the cherries and soak ‘em and pickle ‘em, and make jam of ‘em, and the dried cherries…

GAYEF: Shut up, Firs.

FIRS: The dried cherries used to be sent in wagons to Moscow and Kharkof. A heap of money! The dried cherries were soft and juicy and sweet and sweet-smelling them. They knew some way in those days.

MADAME RANEVSKY: And why don’t they do it now?

FIRS: They’ve forgotten. Nobody remembers how to do it.

Related Characters: Madame Lyubof Andreyevna Ranevsky (speaker), Yermolai Alexeyitch Lopakhin (speaker), Leonid Andreyitch Gayef (speaker), Firs Nikolayevitch (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Cherry Orchard
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

FIRS: I’ve been alive a long time. When they found me a wife, your father wasn’t even born yet. And when the Liberation came I was already chief valet. But I wouldn’t have any Liberation then; I stayed with my master. (A pause.) I remember how happy everybody was, but why they were happy they didn’t know themselves.

LOPAKHIN: It was fine before then. Anyway they used to flog ‘em.

FIRS (Mishearing him): I should think so! The peasants minded the masters, and the masters minded the peasants, but now it’s all higgledy-piggledy; you can’t make head or tail of it.

Related Characters: Yermolai Alexeyitch Lopakhin (speaker), Firs Nikolayevitch (speaker)
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

(They all sit pensively. Silence reigns, broken only by the mumbling of old FIRS. Suddenly a distant sound is heard as if from the sky, the sound of a string breaking, dying away, melancholy.)

MADAME RANEVSKY: What’s that?

LOPAKHIN: I don’t know. It’s a lifting-tub given way somewhere away in the mines. It must be a long way off.

GAYEF: Perhaps it’s some sort of bird… a heron, or something.

TROPHIMOF: Or an owl…

MADAME RANEVSKY (shuddering): There’s something uncanny about it!

FIRS: The same thing happened before the great misfortune: the own screeched and the samovar kept humming.

GAYEF: What great misfortune?

FIRS: The Liberation.

Related Characters: Madame Lyubof Andreyevna Ranevsky (speaker), Yermolai Alexeyitch Lopakhin (speaker), Leonid Andreyitch Gayef (speaker), Firs Nikolayevitch (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 4 Quotes

(The stage is empty. One hears all the doors being locked, and the carriages driving away. All is quiet. Amid the silence the thud of axes on the trees echoes sad and lonely. The sound of footsteps. FIRS appears in the doorway. He is dressed, as always, in his long coat and white waistcoat; he wears slippers. He is ill.)

FIRS (going to the door and trying the handle): Locked. They’ve gone. (Sitting on the sofa.) They’ve forgotten me. Never mind! I’ll sit here. […] Life has gone by as if I’d never lived. (Lying down.) I’ll lie down. There’s no strength left in you; there’s nothing, nothing. Ah, you… job-lot!

(He lies motionless. A distant sound is heard, as if from the sky, the sound of a string breaking, dying away, melancholy. Silence ensues, broken only by the stroke of the axe on the trees far away in the cherry orchard.)

Related Characters: Firs Nikolayevitch (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Cherry Orchard
Page Number: 48-49
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Cherry Orchard LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Cherry Orchard PDF

Firs Nikolayevitch Character Timeline in The Cherry Orchard

The timeline below shows where the character Firs Nikolayevitch appears in The Cherry Orchard. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Social Change Theme Icon
Love and Sentimentality Theme Icon
...the approaching carriages. A hubbub is heard in the next room as the elderly servant Firs enters the nursery from outdoors, having collected Ranevsky from the train station. Alone in the... (full context)
Social Change Theme Icon
Love and Sentimentality Theme Icon
Firs enters, babbling to himself. His mistress has come home again, he says; he is so... (full context)
Social Change Theme Icon
Loss, Grief, and Class Theme Icon
Love and Sentimentality Theme Icon
Selfishness Theme Icon
...advises Ranevsky to commit to his plan—there is no other way to save the property. Firs begins babbling about how in the olden days the cherries used to be harvested, dried,... (full context)
Love and Sentimentality Theme Icon
Selfishness Theme Icon
Anya expresses her great relief and embraces her uncle. Firs enters the room—he seems to think that Gayef is still a young boy, and urges... (full context)
Act 2
Social Change Theme Icon
Loss, Grief, and Class Theme Icon
Love and Sentimentality Theme Icon
Firs enters with an overcoat for Gayef, whom he continues to treat like a very young... (full context)
Social Change Theme Icon
...have been a bird. Ranevsky shivers and says there was something uncanny about the noise. Firs remarks that he heard the exact same noise years ago, just before the liberation of... (full context)
Act 3
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Firs and Yasha watch everyone dancing. Firs confesses he’s not feeling well—the luxurious, grandiose parties of... (full context)
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Loss, Grief, and Class Theme Icon
...forced to wait for the next one. Gayef enters, crying. He passes some parcels to Firs and says he’s going upstairs to change—he is tired, and hasn’t eaten all day. (full context)
Act 4
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Loss, Grief, and Class Theme Icon
Anya asks Yasha if Firs has gone to the hospital yet; Yasha replies that he told the staff this morning... (full context)
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Loss, Grief, and Class Theme Icon
Love and Sentimentality Theme Icon
...ready to leave, she still has two things on her mind. She’s still worried about Firs—Anya reassures her that Firs has indeed been sent to the hospital. Ranevsky’s second worry is... (full context)
Social Change Theme Icon
Loss, Grief, and Class Theme Icon
Selfishness Theme Icon
Firs appears in the doorway; he is looking very ill. Everyone has left him behind. He... (full context)