An examination of wealth as a determinant of freedom in A Doll's House and The Cherry Orchard
From the early establishment of societies and economies, wealth has been seen as a symbol for freedom due to the numerous possibilities it presents. A Doll's House and The Cherry Orchard both present characters ensnared by their lack of wealth. Consequently, a casual observer will assume that financial difficulty is the major obstacle plaguing those in the plays. Delving further, it is apparent that the lack of psychological freedom is the prevailing dilemma, as can be seen when financial difficulties are overcome and the caged atmosphere remains. Ibsen and Chekhov both initially stress the theme of wealth and money is viewed as the foundation for freedom, but later reveal that psychological freedom can only be achieved through other means.
The illusion of financial distress being the dominant obstacle is set swiftly by both texts. The Cherry Orchard promptly reveals the troubling situation to the audience merely a few pages into the script. The sisters, faced with a dwindling fortune and a wastrel mother, decide that "in August the estate will be put up for sale" . The imminent auction causes an anxious and heartrending atmosphere to envelop the entire estate. Lyubov is especially distressed due to her former prosperous days. Although she acknowledges her present circumstances, she retains her former careless spending habits. Lyubov's actions only further necessitate the auction of the estate. Similarly, A Doll's House reveals Nora's personal dilemma fairly early. The poignant account of Nora saving her husband's life by sacrificing her own financial freedom demonstrates the significance of wealth. The loan compels Nora to live her otherwise pleasurable live in a constant state of difficulty:
Nora. Whenever Torvald has given me money for new dresses and such things, I have never spent more than half of it; I have always bought the simplest and cheapest things...many a time I was at my wits' end.
Neither Chekhov nor Ibsen gave evidence of another conflict thus far, and the audience is convinced by the illusions, believing that should the financial difficulties be absolved the conflicts would end.
The link between freedom and wealth is ultimately severed with new evidence as the plays progress. This is painfully clear in A Doll's House:
Krogstad. Well, in any case, it would have been of no use to you now. If you stood there with ever so much money in your hand, I would never part with your bond.
Although repaying the loan is no longer a difficult task for Nora due to Torvald's upcoming promotion, her state of entrapment remains true. The audience becomes aware that Nora is psychologically cornered by Krogstad's blackmailing. The Cherry Orchard presents a similar idea, albeit subtlety. Lopakhin finds himself in very much the same situation as Nora throughout the play:
Lopakhin: ...Like a pig in a pastry shop...I may be rich,...