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Theme Of Social Change And Freedom English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1280 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In both the plays ‘The Cherry Orchard’ by Anton Chekhov and ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henry Ibsen the protagonist is a woman. Madame Ranevsky of the ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and Nora Helmer of the ‘A Doll’s House’ both find themselves enchained and victims of the social norms existing at that time and their own personal past. In the beginning both Nora and Madame Ranevsky’s lives were moulded to comply with social norms but the play sees their evolution from controlled women to the independent characters free from social constraints as well as burden of their past memories. This evolution towards their freedom was both the consequence as well as catalyst for furthering the social change in society at large, although several characters in both the plays like Firs and Trophimof deal with the potential difference among social progress and social change and doubt the effectiveness of the Liberation.

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Moreover emancipation of serfs has led Lopakhin previously a serf into flourishing as a liberated, wealthy businessman. With financial success Lopakhin witnesses a significant class change within the society. In the company of Madame Ranevsky, Lopakhin feels self conscious, still a peasant at heart but deep down in his mind he knows that things have changed in his favour. Against this background of Lopakhin’s success, the bankruptcy faced by Mrs. Revesky further frustrates her. When Lopakhin offers his plan to her in order to improve her financial position by the construction of villas at the cherry orchard, Mrs. Revesky refusal not only exhibits her impractical attitude and lack of business acumen but also she is not free from her image of an aristocrat- she is still a slave of her passions she spends extravagantly ignoring her present crises. She is not only a victim of social change around her but also of her own flaws and passions and her running back to her former lover in Paris in the end displays her desire to seek liberation from her past memories which have chained her throughout her life. She although unlike Nora Helmer does not want to develop into an independent, intellectual personality as she still wants some support system to cling on which in the end is her former lover. Moreover it seems that her running away from her past memories although is liberating her from her times of yore but she is not trying to find her true self in this liberating process. She is still unable to discover herself which is clearly pictured as a goal by Nora Helmer in ‘A Doll’s House’.

In the ‘A Doll’s House’ written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879 at the time of the movement of Naturalism, which is regarded as a milestone in theatre for its representation of pragmatic individuals, locations and situations, Henrik restricts his story to the middle class families and his writings are of a society that is partial not only by its means of living but also its outlook. In his play, Henrik deals with women’s rights as a matter of significance, which on the contrary was neglected throughout that time period. The heroin of his play, Nora Helmer suffers an inferior character and is a victim of social norms, in the beginning she struggles desperately to conform to these norms but ultimately evolves towards self liberation. It’s only after eight years when Krogstad blackmails her for forging her dying father’s signature that she realises that she lived with a hypocrite and her affection and love for her husband was of least interest to him and he would no matter what consider his social reputation more important than his family. Nora changes herself to become independent, free form social constraints to explore her own goals and beliefs. Throughout much of the play Nora Helmers character is depicted as subjugated by both “authoritarian social conventions” and manipulations of Torvald Helmer, her husband. But unlike Mrs. Ranevsky’s character that remains unchanged throughout the play, Nora is a dynamic character. Nora’s personal character sees a remarkable revolution. From a meek and submissive, childlike silly wife to her husband, she mutates into independent personality seeking self realization and in her concluding lines Nora states “…I’m a human being no less…try to understand them…” [3] 

Nora discards the male-controlled structure of her family that refuses her a self-determining individuality. She demands an alteration, a progression of her relations founded on edification and egalitarianism. By declining Torvald of being called as her husband and by disagreeing with the missing and departed father whose family name she brought into play by means of counterfeit signature, Nora has travelled the remoteness and has promoted the capacity in her to doubt the spurious conventions that since her childhood have held her in repressed and overpowered. In the play, author’s award to Nora, the right to stride on the way to her personal individuality, Ibsen has provided her with the right to discover her personal language, to designate her own name. Nora’s closing gesticulation announces her parting from the rigid role of a wife. Nora seems to rise as a principal example of liberation. Nora adamantly insists on pulling herself away from Torvald’s outlook of her as a conventional wife. She on the other hand makes a decision to distinguish herself as someone in process, in a condition of achieving, rather than of having a definite and rigid individuality. Nora walks out of the house to locate her being and educate herself. With the understanding that her matrimony had been a lie, the world is dissimilar outside, and that there are people who will lend her a hand to get through life, she makes a decision to develop into her own person.

I think, for a woman as loving Nora who had an affectionate and caring mind that was prepared to do anything for her husband, nothing else mattered except her family. She had a fervent and dedicated would happily forfeit everything as the reason of her existence is to be enjoyable for her children and husband; and to have fun. After discovering that Nora copied signature of her father on the loan bind, her husband, Torvald nullifies their marriage without caring Nora’s love towards him which made her take this step. In their last conversation Torvald becomes more oppressive and says”…Nora, I would… gladly work for your sake. But no man can be expected to sacrifice his honour, even for the person he loves…” and she on realising the situation he wants to maintain answers him, “…Millions of women have done it…” [4] 

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In my opinion, in the beginning of both the plays, the protagonists because of their situations had inauthentic personalities which progressively and eventually developed into much finer and genuine personas. Moreover with the help of depicted economic circumstances and the unusual personality of the characters, both the plays, ‘The Cherry Orchard’ and ‘A Doll’s House’ suggest that there are two sources which determine change and freedom which are ‘economics’ which comes from without and ‘control over oneself’ which in contrast comes from within.

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