Dangers of Illusion in The Cherry Orchard and A Doll's House
In the plays, The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekhov, A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen, and Galileo, by Bertolt Brecht, the protagonists' beliefs are a combination of reality and illusion that shape the plot of the respective stories. 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 Gayev and Miss 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 (the final night they have in the house before it is auctioned, they throw an extravagant party, 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 so desperate that they need to compromise any of their dignity.
Lopakhin: As you know, your cherry orchards are being sold to pay your
debts. The auction is on the twenty second of August. But there’s no need to worry, my dear. You can sleep soundly. There’s a way out. Here’s my plan. Listen carefully, please. Your estate is only about twelve miles from town, and the railway is not very far away. Now all you have to do is break up your cherry orchard and the land along the river into building plots and lease them out for country cottages. You¹ll then have an income of at least twenty-five thousand a year.
Gayev: I¹m sorry, but what utter nonsense! …
Mrs. Ranevsky: Cut down? My dear man, I¹m very sorry but I don¹t think
you know what you¹re talking about....
Lopakhin: If we can¹t think of anything and if we can¹t come to any
decision, it won¹t only be your cherry orchard, but your whole estate that will be sold at auction on the twenty-second of August. Make up your mind. I tell you there is no other way (621-622).
This inability on the behalf of the family to realize the seriousness of their situation is due to their refusal to accept reality. If they had recognized the situation they were in, and dealt with it, they may have been able to save some of their money or even curbed their spending. They could have saved themselves. Unfortunately, once things got bad for them financially, they refused to accept that fact that circumstances had changed, and instead continued to live as though nothing were wrong.
They adopted this illusion to save their pride, and the illusion eventually became reality for the family. Their pride wouldn¹t allow for anything else. They were too proud to accept that their social status, and financial...