The Cherry Orchard
by Anton Chekhov
Chekhov describes Fiers's first entrance like so: "leaning on a stick, [he] walks quickly across the stage; he has just been to meet Lubov Andreyevna. He wears an old-fashioned livery and a tall hat" (1.24). We immediately know 1) he's old, 2) he's old-fashioned, and 3) he hops to it when his mistress needs something. Fiers is 87 years old and thinks things were better before the serfs were freed: "When the Emancipation came I was already first valet. Only I didn't agree with the Emancipation and remained with my people. ... [Pause] I remember everybody was happy, but they didn't know why" (2.79).
Fiers is deaf and senile. This perfectly natural character detail enables Chekhov to repeatedly conjure up old Russia:
FIERS. In the old days, forty or fifty years back, they dried the cherries, soaked them and pickled them, and made jam of them, and it used to happen that...
GAEV. Be quiet, Fiers.
FIERS. And then we'd send the dried cherries off in carts to Moscow and Kharkov. And money! And the dried cherries were soft, juicy, sweet, and nicely scented...They knew the way....
LUBOV. What was the way?
FIERS. They've forgotten. Nobody remembers. (1.115-119)
With his memories, his loyalty to the family, the way he looks and behaves, Fiers stokes the fire of Lubov and Gaev's attachment to the cherry orchard. He evokes the past. But with the estate in decline, Fiers becomes a problem to solve. In Act 4, Lubov has "two anxieties […]. The first is poor Fiers [Looks at her watch]. We've still five minutes." (4.74). Anya assures her that Yasha has taken care of Fiers. They've left the fate of the faithful old servant in the hands of the faithless young one. We can guess what happens, but the ending of the play still shocks us. Fiers tries the handle to the door:
FIERS. It's locked. They've gone away. [Sits on a sofa] They've forgotten about me. ... Never mind, I'll sit here. ... And Leonid Andreyevitch will have gone in a light overcoat instead of putting on his fur coat. ... [Sighs anxiously] I didn't see. ... Oh, these young people! [Mumbles something that cannot be understood] Life's gone on as if I'd never lived. [Lying down] I'll lie down. ... You've no strength left in you, nothing left at all. ... Oh, you ...bungler!
[He lies without moving.] (1.134)
With the necessity of forward movement pressing on them, the family has forgotten Fiers. They abandon him, a relic of the past.