In the play “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov set in Mrs. Ranevsky’s estate and ” A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen set in Helmers’ flat the protagonists shape the story. In both plays the protagonists’ mental beliefs combine reality and illusions that shape the plot of each respective story. The ability of the characters to reject or accept an illusion, along with the foolish pride that motivated their decision leads to their personal downfall. In the Cherry Orchard, by AntonChekhov, Gayev and Miss.
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Ranevsky, along with the majority of their family, refuse to believe that their estate is close to bankruptcy. Instead of accepting the reality of their problem, they continue to live their lives under the illusion that they are doing well financially. The family continues with its frivolous ways until there is no money left. One specific example of this is when the family throws an extravagant party on the final night before the house is auctioned off laughing in the face of impending financial ruin.
Even when Lopakhin attempts to rescue the family with ideas that could lead to some of the estate being retained, they dismiss his ideas under the illusion that the situation is not that desperate that they need to compromise any of their dignity. The inability on the behalf of the family to realize the seriousness of their situation is seen in the passage between Lopakhin, Gayev and Mrs. Ranevsky: Lopakhin: As you know, your cherry orchards being sold to pay your debts. The Auctions on the twenty-second of August. Here’s my plan….
All you have to do is break up your cheery orchard and the land along the river into building plots and lease them out for country cottages. You’ll have an income of at least twenty- five thousand a year. Gayev: I’m sorry, but what utter nonsense! Mrs. Ranevsky: Cut down? My dear man, I’m very sorry but I don’t think you know what you’re talking about (249). If they had recognized the situation they were in they might have been able to save some of their money, or even curbed their spending. This ultimately could have saved them from financial ruin.
Unfortunately, once things got bad for them, they refused to accept the fact that circumstances had changed, and instead continued to live as though nothing were wrong. They adopted this illusion as a savior of their pride, and the illusion eventually became reality for the family. Their pride would not allow for anything else. They were too proud to accept their social status, and financial status was in jeopardy, so they chose to live a life of illusion. In their imaginary situation, they were going to be fine. It is easier to believe something when you want it to be true.
Unfortunately, outside situations do not change, even if you can fool yourself into thinking they do not exist. The illusion that they used to run their lives became the source of their downfall. Since they grasped at their illusion so tightly, in vain hopes that it would replace reality, they failed to deal practically with their problem, until it got to the point where they had to. They were forced out onto the street, and had all their material possessions stripped from them. The most important thing they had their, status was gone.
In a “Doll’s House”, by Henrik Ibsen, property and status are again destined to be lost. The illusion is twisted. At the beginning of the play, Nora leads a life under the illusion that everything was perfect. She lives for eight years with the knowledge that she has broken the law, and betrayed her husband. Though it was necessary, the psychological toll it took on her and the family was hardly worthwhile. Along with Nora’s flaws, her husband was also at fault. He could not accept what Nora had done, would not have been able to deal with the extreme changes she had under gone.
His pride would not let him accept that he needed a woman to help; that he could not handle everything alone without the help of another person. His self-confidence would not have been strong enough to take that kind of blow to his ego. If she had forced her husband into handling the situation, by having him borrow money himself, everything would have turned out just fine. She, instead, took out the loan on her own, and did not even clue in her husband. She tried to avoid having his pride injured by forcing him to borrow money, even though it was necessary to save his life. From this experience she grew.
She learned about human nature, and about the value of money, and had even learned a lesson of practicality. Instead of clueing in her husband in about what she had, she kept quiet and left him ignorant. She lived her life in an illusion, pretending to be the old Nora that she was, and not the new and changed women she had developed into. She did not let the person she had become permeate all the aspects of her life. She let the illusion of the old Nora continue well after she had become a new person. Eventually she evolved into a person who could not be married to Helmer anymore.
Helmer: Nora, I would gladly work for you night and day, and endure sorrow and hardships for your sake. But no man can be expected to sacrifice his honor, even for the person he loves. Nora: Millions of Women have done it (85). Helmer: Oh, you think and talk like a stupid child (83). Nora: That may be. But you neither think nor talk like a man I could share my life with as I am now, I am no wife for you (85). If she had continued to grow, and mature, and had accepted the kind of person she became, then perhaps she would have gained the courage to tell her husband what she had done.
She would not have had to leave. She could have educated him gradually Instead of immediately surrendering any hope by leaving everything she has ever known. Nora’s failure to accept to what she had really become led to the end of her life with Helmer, and her downfall in society. In the end Helmer downfall socially and emotionally became apparent. Throughout each of these plays, the main characters faced a reality that they cease to accept, and instead live in an illusion. The refusal to accept a reality or illusion led to the characters’ fall in status and/or emotional well being.