If death is a pervading theme in both Voyage and Shipwreck, then dying is its incarnation in Salvage. While fewer characters expire during the course of the play, the dead of the previous plays continue to haunt and inhibit the survivors in Salvage. In essence, many of the primary characters in Salvage are in the process of a very slow decay. Ogarev’s death is foreshadowed heavily throughout the play, yet never comes to fruition. In fact, not much of anything comes to fruition in Salvage. The characters constantly pine for change, yet none ever comes.
Love in Salvage is presented as a toxic emotion. Natasha threatens to leave Herzen because she fears their affair is killing Ogarev. Similarly, Herzen’s unresolved feelings for Natalie serve as a constant reminder of the incomplete nature of his relationship with Natasha. Ogarev’s affair with Mary represents yet another complication that further damages his relationship with his wife. Even Herzen’s love for Ogarev is toxic because the two prevent each other from moving forward.
The most important theme in Salvage is children. The children play a much more significant role in this play than they (or other children) did in previous plays. We see all of Herzen’s children with Natalie and Natasha grow up and, even though they exist outside the political aspects of the story, their presence is significant to the play as a whole. Herzen’s lack of communication with his own children represents the larger issue of his disconnect with the younger generations. Stoppard reinforces this idea by repeatedly showing Herzen attempting to interest and impress his son Sasha with his own politics. Sasha’s lack of interest (he eventually becomes a doctor) demonstrates Herzen’s inability to bridge the gap between himself and the next generation of thinkers.