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Comparative Essay

1651 words - 7 pages

The controversial issues of women's rights and equality for blacks in America during the 19th and 20th centuries' are themes that paved the way for the success of two famous historical playwrights. Henrik Ibsen, one of the founders of modernism in theater, explores throughout some of his plays the theme of gender roles during the 19th century. August Wilson's plays "constitute a cycle that traces the black experience in America throughout the twentieth century" (1027). He emphasizes the struggle for equality among African-Americans during the 20th century. In two famous dramatic plays, A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen, and Fences, by August Wilson, the fictional characters develop conflicts in their relationships which lend to the themes explored by each playwright. In both plays, the main characters, Torvald, in A Doll's House, and Troy, in Fences, unconsciously 'throw off' parts of themselves and project their expectations onto their family members, essentially damaging their relationships within the plays.Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House, explores the controversial struggle of gender roles during the late 19th century. Nora Helmer fulfills the role of the stereotypical housewife, and allows her husband Torvald to shape her into the image he expects her to be. Torvald treats Nora as if she were a doll, living in a doll's house, hence the title. He denies Nora the right to think and act the way she wishes, for example, in act I when Torvald asks her "[has] little Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking our rules in town today?" Nora replies, "I wouldn't dream of going against your wishes" (799). This dialogue depicts the demeaning relationship between Torvald and Nora. His rule for not allowing Nora to eat macaroons, or any other sweets exemplifies the doll wife, in which Torvald expects Nora to be. His use of the word "little" followed by pet names when referring to Nora, like his "little squirrel" (796), "little songbird" (818), "little skylark" (840) portrays the role of a doll wife that Nora willingly fulfills.While fulfilling the doll wife role, Nora also tolerates Torvald's unconscious acts of 'throwing off' parts of himself onto their marriage. Torvald is a typical husband during a time when the opinion of society meant everything to a man. His eagerness for social acceptance is 'thrown off' onto Nora, which essentially causes the demise of their marriage. In the final act of the play, when Torvald finds out about the forgery and the loan which is the big secret Nora withholds from him, he calls her a "little fool" (850), even though her actions saved his life. His egotistical side took over, and his acceptance by society is ruined in his eyes, this is apparent when Torvald says, "[now] you've destroyed all my happiness…[you've] ruined my whole future"(851). Torvald is 'throwing off' his own ideals onto Nora, selfishly reacting to the secret that saved his life when he was very ill. Torvald's selfish behavior causes Nora to finally...

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