The Awakening and A Doll House Comparison Essay Essay
The Awakening and A Doll House Comparison Essay
Women roles have drastically changed since the late 18th and early 19th century. During this time, women did not have the freedom to voice their opinions and be themselves. Today women don’t even have to worry about the rules and limitations like the women had to in this era. Edna in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin and Nora in “A Doll House” by Henrik Ibsen were analogous protagonists. The trials they faced were also very similar. Edna and Nora were both faced with the fact that they face a repressive husband whom they both find and exit strategy for. For Nora this involved abandoning her family and running away, while Edna takes the option that Nora could not do-committing suicide. These distinct texts both show how women were forced to act during their marriage and towards society during this time.
“The Awakening” explores the controversial character, Edna Pontellier’s, desire to find and live fully within her true self. She upsets many nineteenth century expectations for women and their supposed roles. Rebelling against societal norms, Edna finally learns to think of herself as an independent woman. One of her most shocking actions was her denial of her role as a mother and wife. She leaves her husband, Leónce and has an affair with Robert.
Due to Robert’s constant presence, Edna starts to experience a change within herself. She begins to develop a sense of herself as a whole person. She realizes that she is not satisfied to simply be a wife and a mother, and so she begins to stand up for herself to her husband. Leónce to Edna: “I can’t permit you to stay out there all night. You must come in the house instantly.” Edna replies “Leónce go to bed … I mean to stay out here. I don’t wish to go in and I don’t intend to. Don’t speak to me like that again; ill shall not answer you.” (Chopin 25). Her willingness for independence and freedom leads to her disobeying her husband. She realizes that she cannot continue taking orders she does not please to follow which leads to the realization of her marriage making her wonder if she still wants to be with her husband.
As Edna begins the process of identifying her true self, the self that exists apart from the identity she maintains as a wife and mother. Unexpectedly, Robert and Edna become extremely close with each other by summer’s end. Unwilling to further his relationship with a married woman, Robert leaves the country for Mexico. Furthermore, Leónce truly believed he had no obligation to care for his children and that it was Edna’s duty to do so. “If it was not a mother’s place to look after the children, whose on earth was it?” (Chopin 7). In society’s eyes, all a man needed to do was support their kids financially while the woman supported them in other ways. Chopin focuses on two other female characters in the story, Adele Ratignolle and Mademoiselle Reisz. These women are examples of how women should be in the nineteenth century.
Adele was an example of a “motherly woman.” She would gladly sacrifice anything to care for her children, husband, and household, while Edna would not. Edna finds both role models lacking and begins to see that the life of freedom and individuality that she wants goes against society. Not only did society have a specific look on how a women should be, but Leónce as well, towards Edna. “’You are burnt beyond recognition,” he added, looking at his wife as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage.” This shows how Edna is not an acceptable color according to her husband’s wishes. Edna had specific guidelines to follow and getting a “tan” gave a different appearance, indicating that the Pontellier family wasn’t maintaining the purity of their blood.
At the beginning of “A Doll House,” everything seems well. Nora and Torvald Helmer seem quite happy together. Torvald speaks to his wife in a rather demeaning way, but she doesn’t really seem to mind. The Helmers are both excited because Torvald has gotten a new job as the manager of a bank and now money won’t be a concern. Nora’s old school friend, Mrs. Christine Linde, arrives hoping that Torvald might be able to give her a job.
Over the course of their conversation, Nora confesses to Christine that she has a secret. Nora refuses to tell Christine who she borrowed money from, but does explain why she had to borrow it. Early in the Helmers’ marriage, Torvald got sick and the doctor prescribed a trip south to warmer climates as the only way to save him. At the time, they didn’t have the money for such a trip. To save Torvald‘s pride, Nora borrowed money without his knowledge and funded a year in Italy. In order to pay it off, she’s been using money from the allowance Torvald gives her. Krogstad turns out to be whom she borrowed the money from. Krogstad is furious because Torvald is going to fire him.
He threatens to expose Nora’s crime (forging her father’s signature after he was dead in order to get the loan) if he loses his job and so begins blackmailing her. Nora begs Torvald to get Krogstad back, but refuses because he can’t stand being around such awful people. Krogstad writes a letter to Torvald telling him the truth and leaves it in his mailbox. Nora distracts her husband from reading it. After the party they have, Torvald reads the letter. He tells Nora that she is a terrible person. He insists that Nora is not to be allowed near the children anymore, because she may corrupt them. Torvald is really happy and forgives Nora because of another letter Krogstad sends later. Nora, however, doesn’t forgive Torvald. She tells him that she is leaving him, because they’ve never had a real marriage. She’s never been more than a doll in his eyes. “NORA: I have other duties equally sacred.
HELMER: You do not. What duties would they be?
NORA: My duties to myself.
HELMER: You are a wife and a mother before you are anything else” (Ibsen pg.1138). This reassures how the women are “chained” to what they should “be” and should “do.” She tries to escape but he still tries to restrain the her from doing so.
Like Leónce Pontellier, Nora’s husband is also very direct when it comes to Nora knowing her place. These women were denied their basic right to take care of themselves and were forced to be housewives, as were all women of the 19th century.
In conclusion, both Edna and Nora experience an awakening during their quest for freedom. Both wives felt trapped by their societal rules and regulations which didn’t allow them to be their true selves. Edna, fighting against the societal structures of motherhood forced her to be defined by her title as wife of Leónce Pontellier and mother of Raoul and Etienne Pontellier, instead of being her own, self-defined individual, caused her to finally escape by committing suicide. Nora, on the other hand, rebelled against society’s norms and walked out leaving her husband and children. Although Edna and Nora had many similarities both of their awakenings led to two different resolutions.
Subject: Henrik Ibsen,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 May 2018
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