In the plays ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘The Cherry Orchard’, both authors clearly highlight a prominent act of deception through the actions and the behavior of the characters in the plays. Deception is an act of misleading that leads to feelings of betrayal and distrust between people, since it violates what is morally considered to be right. Most individuals expect others to be truthful and honest; however this is not always the case. People tend to lie and deceive either to justify a certain idea, view or to protect somebody else.
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Sometimes deception can be unintended when the characters don’t mean to lie, which we see in the play by Anton Chekhov, however in Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘A Doll’s House’ the deceiver deceives intentionally to protect the one she loves. Deception is motivated by different purposes all the time. The entire play ‘A Doll’s House’ is based upon it, with each deceiving character motivating the behavior of every other character in the play. The initial act of deception is seen when Nora deceives her husband and borrows money from Krogstad to save Torvald’s life. She then continues lying to him intending to repay back the loan. Nora thinks it her duty to lie in order to protect her husband however this makes her vulnerable as a heroine to Krogstad who now keeps blackmailing her.
Like Henrik Ibsen, Chekhov also uses deception; However in “The Cherry Orchard” the main heroine doesn’t deceive others but she deceives herself. Self- deception is a process of denying logical arguments and clear evidence. In this play, Madame Ranevsky wants to seek refuge in the past from the despair of her present life, to remember the past and forget the present by refusing to face the reality.
After spending five years abroad, she comes back to her “beloved home”. However she starts crying at the sight of “[Her] nursery, [her] dear, beautiful nursery!” she feels like a “little girl still”. The nursery is a misnomer and it introduces a very nostalgic atmosphere, which brings upon terrible memories of the death of Madame’s son, which she can not handle. She left Russia for Paris, to forget the memories of her husband’s and baby’s deaths in the first place.
When the time comes to sell the cherry orchard, Madam Ranevsky does not want to understand the seriousness of the situation. She does not believe that she can lose the orchard because of the luxury she used to live in, allowing herself everything and now she can not and does not want to accept the fact that she has to change that. The heroine realizes that she is leading a wrong lifestyle, she sins and overspends, however she does not do anything to change that. She believes that everything will resolve itself.
In a similar way, Nora believes that her act of deception was done for the ‘greater good’, since she was motivated by her husband’s illness and had to save him and so she does not try to avoid any more lies and falsifications. As a matter of fact, she keeps deceiving Torvald, on small things such as eating macaroons and tiptoeing to listen at his door, because she feels the need to hide things from her husband to save their marriage.
Torvald in return deceives Nora by making her believe he loves her, he even says “Do you know Nora, often I wish some terrible danger would threaten you, so that I could offer my life and my blood, everything for your sake.”
In reality he prioritizes other things before her and just regards her as his property. He only fantasizes about how perfect their life is, which is another example of self-deception.
It’s clear that their entire relationship is built upon lies and deception. Nora encourages her children to lie to Torvald when she says “Don’t talk to anyone about the strange gentleman. You hear? Not even to Daddy”. By that she makes a big deal out of nothing and sacrifices her children’s innocence.
Like Torvald, Madam Ranevsky tends to ‘build a fence’ around herself by ignoring her emotions to create this happy world for herself. When she comes back home, she is restless, she says “I can’t sit still! I can’t do it! [Jumping up and walking about in great agitation.] This happiness is more than I can bear. Laugh at me! I am a fool! My darling old cupboard! [Caressing a table.] My dear little table! “. This makes her character ridiculous and from her kissing the bookcases and her reaction over her acquaintances deaths we understand that she cannot handle anything real.
As mentioned before, France was a place of refuge for Madame Ranevsky when she needed to escape and now that one of the most difficult stages of her life is over she does not seem to appreciate Paris. Once she is back to Russia she just tries to forget her life there. When she receives two telegrams from there she immediately tears them up without reading, and says “They are from Paris. I’ve done with Paris”. Her brief responses about Paris, suggest that she does not want to remember it and that the French city is over and done with. However when she comes back to Russia, we see that she still hasn’t forgotten her past. Later on in the play, when she talks to Gayef she suddenly exclaims “Look! There’s mamma walking in the orchardâ€¦ in a white frock. There she is! ” One of the things about Madame Ranevsky hallucinating shows how disconnected she is from reality. Also, the composition and bearing of the hallucination reveal the nature of her disconnection. She seeks refuge in her past, her innocent childhood, and for her, the orchard is a symbol of her past- the fact that she fantasizes her mother in the orchard shows how disconnected she is from reality, confirming what she seeks.
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In a Doll’s House, the taste of freedom and independence motivates Nora to keep on lying and deceiving since we always tend to crave whatever we can’t get. However she isn’t the only character who lies and goes behind the back of her loved ones. Dr. Rank who is a family friend hides his true feelings for Nora from both Torvald and his wife. The only reason Nora actually finds out about how he truly feels, is when she tries to seek his help and she manages to see beneath the surface to his ‘heart’.
This is how she finds out that he is secretly in love with her. On the other hand Dr. Rank seems to be very considerate and the only reason he deceives both his friends is because he tries to be an honest, faithful friend to Torvald. He is trying really hard to be loyal but at the same time he can not stay away from Nora. Also he manages to expose Nora’s emotional immaturity and unwillingness to violate social conventions. Thus we can’t be sure of whether his deception is intentional or not.
Torvald, although it seems like he was the one deceived by both his wife and his friend, can be considered the one most guilty of the ‘crime’.
Throughout the whole play, we see how he has deceived Nora into believing that their marriage is perfect, whilst in reality it was just his fantasy. The most important thing for him was to be able to keep up a proper appearance of moderation and appropriateness because the society he was brought up in is very judgmental and prejudicial.
Like Ibsen, Chekhov presents a character who is also very concerned with looks and appearances. Lopakhin, an ex-peasant who is now a wealthy neighbor talks to the maid-servant, Dunyasha. Although he revels in his own economic situation, at the same time, he chides Dunyasha, by saying “You are too refined, Dunyasha, that’s what it is. You dress yourself like a young lady, and look at your hair! You ought not to do it, you ought to remember your place.” He says that she is still of a low social standing. He is chiding her and telling her not to act like a lady, reminding her she is only the maid.
This scene causes tension since there is this dichotomy as he is not quite comfortable with the new changes and he keeps telling himself that he is not a peasant. He almost contradicts what he is saying, which is another apparent example of self-deception.
In conclusion, when comparing the two plays ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘The Cherry Orchard’ we see that deception is an important theme since it’s the main cause for characters to lose sense of reality. In the end of ‘A Doll’s House’, Nora finally becomes more aware of how blind she was and walks out on her family to seek freedom and independence. Torvald on the other hand even at the end of the play, is still devoted to a mirage, an image of something that was never really there. At the end of ‘The Cherry Orchard’, Madame Ranevsky loses all her possessions together with the orchard and goes back to Paris, leaving behind everything that she thought she believed in.
From this we have learnt, that deception is often triggered by the acceptance or disapproval of other people in society, since we tend to care too much about what everybody else thinks and thus we try to blend in.
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