By Louis Althusser
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As we have seen, this deadlock was never merely external: the limiting consciousness of the false society—"we are all ghosts ... all of us so wretchedly afraid of the light"—was seen, by Ibsen, as inevitably entering the consciousness of the man who was struggling: the deadlock with a false society was re-enacted as a deadlock within the self. The methods of Ibsen's last plays, particularly, are related to this internal deadlock. It was from this point that Chekhov began. He attempted the same action, and made it end in suicide.
In this comparison, I am not attempting to prove plagiarism. All authors steal (it is only, it seems, in an industrial society, that this has been reckoned as wrong), and a good trick is always worth playing twice. I am trying, rather, to assess the function and validity of the device. The function is surely clear. The seagull emphasizes, as a visual symbol—a piece of stage property—the action and the atmosphere. It is a device for emotional pressure, for inflating the significance of the related representational incidents.
In the later plays life is seen in softer colors; Chekhov is no longer eager to be the author of a Russian Hamlet or Don Juan. The homely Uncle Vanya succeeds on the title page the oversuggestive Wood Demon, and Chekhov forgoes the melodrama of a forest fire. Even more revealing; over-explicit themes are deleted. Only in The Wood Demon is the career of the Professor filled in with excessive detail (Heidelberg and all) or Astrov denounced as a socialist. Only in the early version does Vanya's mother add to her remark that a certain writer now makes his living by attacking his own former views: "It is very, very typical of our time.