Federico Garcia Lorca's “The House of Bernarda Alba” and Henrik Ibsen's “A Doll's House” both protest against the confinement of women of their days. Although the Houses are set differently in Spain of 20th century and Norway of 19th century respectively, both the plays relate in illuminating their respective female protagonists, Adela and Nora, as they eventually develop a sense of individuality and self-expression, emerging as free individuals from repression. The authors’ attempts to do so allow the audience to gain an insight into the social norms that each protagonist was pitted against. This heightens the tension as the action develops.
Both Adela and Nora are inherently individualistic, and their innate nature is shown especially when they covertly display defiance in occasions of high social expectations. Despite Bernarda’s declaration of a long period of mourning and her orders to stay within the walls of her house and to wear only black, Adela cheerfully wears a colourful dress of zealous green and goes out of the house, disobeying Bernarda, “to look for what is [hers], what belongs to [her]” – Pepe el Romano. In ‘A Doll’s House’, while Mrs Linde asserts that “a wife can’t borrow without her husband’s permission” , Nora, whom her husband Torvald calls “[his] independent little creature,” leaks out her insubordinate action of borrowing. She even dares to forge her father’s signature, but more importantly, she individually decides for herself why she has to forge – to save “her husband’s life” on her own.
The pressure to comply with the traditional societal conventions induces the central characters of both the plays to masquerade. Appearing as an innocent “poor little thing” to Magdalena, Adela confidently thinks of herself as a camouflaged “wild rabbit” that cannot be caught by Poncia, who knows the real sexually passionate Adela; Adela is confident because she deceives Bernarda to believe that Adela has “never gone against [Bernarda’s] will.” Adela has determined that “no one can keep what has to happen from happening” and she would masquerade to escape the pressure to conform within the “walls of the corral,” even if numerous rules, in the form of a “four thousand yellow flares,” are imposed. Likewise, Nora of ‘A Doll’s House’ assumes the mask of her husband Torvald’s “pretty little thing” , a “little squirrel” , and a submissive “dolly-wife.” She does so because Torvald expects her to accept that he is right in not indulging her “little whims” and to see her “dancing” and “reciting” as per his wishes – he expects her to be a doll under his control. Hence, she finds “a way [herself]” – the way of deception – to follow her own heart.
The revelation of the secrets Nora and Adela keep marks the end of their deception and stimulates them to stand up against repression and express their individual selves. Nora’s loan and forgery are kept secret from her husband because otherwise Nora’s unpermitted disobedient actions would be...