Defying Societies Roles Essay, Research Paper
Defying Societies Roles
For many years, women have struggled and fought for their right to vote. In 1920 women were granted this right, which meant that the government
acknowledged their role as citizens in society. Before being legally declared
citizens, many women had already begun to gain their independence and freedom by defying their roles society had created for them. No longer would they be the prisoner and their husbands the jailer. These were women who had a deep longing for an independent lifestyle and discarded responsibilities. Henrik
Ibsen s, A Dolls House and Kate Chopin s, The Awakening are two examples of
literature that portray characters that shed societies traditional roles.
Nora being so dependent on her husband, Torvald is a reflection of
the social tendencies at the time. When Nora needs assistance with her
Christmas party costume, she says to Torvald, I won t get anywhere without
your help . Helmer just eats this up, and replies with, You helpless little thing (Act I pg 27). Helmer loves that she leans on him so much, and often calls her the child . Helmer feels he has absolute say over her because he regards her as a possession, rather than a human being. The theme of a women s influence over her husband is shown in the novel. Nora holds a little power just because Torvald will actually listen to what she has to say, but this power is extremely limited. He only gives Kristine Linde a job at the bank to make Nora happy. When Krogstad hints that she has a greater influence on her husband s decisions, she is actually insulted. She has learned her limits, and doesn t in the least bit value her decision-making powers. Helmer s reasons for not keeping Krogstad are not based solely on the fact that he doesn t have a perfect past. Helmer is worried about what people will think of him if they know his wife influenced him. He says it will make him a laughingstock in front of the Bank staff members.
In A Dolls House, it is expected and accepted for a woman to
sacrifice for those she loves. Nora commits a crime, forgery, to save Helmer s
life, and she is convinced that Helmer will save her when he finds out about
it, especially when he tells her that he dreams of risking his life to save
her. Helmer doesn t react as expected; he s only worried about his
reputation. When he finally realises that she did do it out of love he says,
You have loved me the way a wife ought to love her husband (Act III pg 63). When Nora hints of the wonderful , the idealized exchange of sacrifice that should mark a loving relationship , Helmer tells her, Nobody sacrifices his honour for his love . Mrs. Lindehad also sacrificed herself for those she loved. She felt it wasn t right to marry Krogstad because her family would not be supported. Kristine felt it wasn t right to be happy, she needed to sacrifice and do what was best for the family.
In The Awakening, Leonce seems to regard Edna as one of his
household goods . When Edna spent the day at the beach and became quite
sunburned, he didn t ask if she was alight, or express concern for her, he seems
to be a bit angry because one of his possessions had become damaged. Leonce
also takes tremendous pride in the way his home is decorated, and he expects
his wife to also be up to par and show no signs of damage such as sunburn.
During her married years, Edna fought Leonce s control streak in
little ways, but she eventually conformed to him after all. After she attempts
to swim for the first time she wonders why she wasted so much time splashing
about like a baby. This statement is also about her resisting the childhood
life she had been living as Leonce s wife and beginning to grow up and stand
up for herself and the things she wants in life. Leonce is constantly telling Nora that she is the object of his desire, and how she comes first in his life, but he does things to prove otherwise.
In the beginning, just because Edna wasn t interested in what he
had to say when she was trying to sleep, he made up the fact that their son
had a fever. Also, when Edna begins to take up painting, he tells her that she
could be doing better things with her free time, such as; contriving for
the comfort of her family.
Both women go through an awakening; the climax of Nora s awakening is when she tells Helmer that her duty to herself is equally as important as her duties to her husband and children. She realises she is a human being before she is a wife and mother. Nora had always been treated as a child; she needed to grow up herself before she helped her children grow up. Edna s awakening sort of begins with her infatuation with Robert. Her girlhood was filled with crushes, and she had to put them all aside when she married Leonce at a young age. She didn t really have a chance to get to know what she really wanted out of life because women of that time were not to have pre-marital sex or go out with a lot of men. It was seen as unacceptable and they would lose all respect. Her awakening is symbolized by her taking her first steps. Her relationship with Robert can be seen as an awakening because she was not fully acquainted with herself before she married, and being with Robert resurrects those feelings.
Nora and Edna were two women who had the strength and courage to defy what society had predetermined for women at that time. They had realised that they themselves had to be happy before they could make a husband and children happy. It is hard to go against the grain, and it was practically unheard of
Today, women who abandon their families are not looked upon with
admiration, but it seems as if maybe it had become more accepted. Nora and
Edna were two women who paved the way for women everywhere to stand up for what they believe in and to make sure they are happy with themselves
before they make others happy.