Nora Vs. Antigone Essay, Research Paper
Both A Doll s House and the Antigone are stories of young women who clash with the conventional male-dominated power in their society. Anouilh s Antigone and Ibsen s A Doll s House have young female protagonist who struggle against male opponents with whom they have family ties. Antigone conflicts with her uncle Creon in the novel Antigone, while Nora Helmer opposes her husband Torvald in A Doll s House. In both plays, the male antagonist embodies the values of the society and state. Creon, the ruler of Thebes, upholds commitment to his people. In a related sense, Torvald is a good bourgeois citizen who is thoroughly socialized and who unquestioningly supports the ideology of middle class society. He constantly monitors his and Nora s behavior against what society expects: From now on, happiness doesn t matter; all that matters is saving the bits and pieces, the appearance. (Act III, 188)
Heredity and the past are of central importance to both Anouilh and Ibsen. Each playwright s protagonist pays for sins inherited from their father. Antigone is the dutiful daughter of Oedipus who cares for her blinded father, sister of the beautiful Ismene, the brothers of Polynices and Eteocles, who are killed in a civil war against each other, the niece of Creon, who is a major cause of her destruction, and the fianc of Haemon, who kills himself in order to rest eternally with her. Torvald says Nora inherited her father s sinful ways: I should have known. All you fathers flimsy values-Be still! All your father s flimsy values have come out in you. No religion, no morals, no sense of duty (Act III, 187).
Antigone gains admiration because of her devotion to her dead brother, her respect for the gods and their law, her firm resolutions, and her fearlessness. In deciding to perform the rites of the burial of her dead brother, Polynices, she is influenced by two considerations. Her religious duty demands that she perform the burial rites even though her action will mean a violation of the order issued by King Creon. Secondly, the dead man is her brother, and as she repeatedly tells Ismene and Creon, she cannot desert him. She claims that no leader has the right to keep her from her own family and from her duty. During her interviews with Creon, Antigone bluntly states that the order banning the burial did not come from the gods, and the edict of a king cannot take precedence over the unwritten, unchanging, and everlasting spiritual laws. Antigone is admired for the fact that she places her sacred duty to her dead brother above all considerations of personal safety. Antigone does not waver in her resolution, even at the thought of her love for Haemon. Creon tries to tempt her with visions of her future happiness with her fianc . She never regrets her decision, and she does not even remotely think of offering an apology to the king in order to escape death.
In the play A Doll s House, Nora Helmer is a product of a society run by men. Nora finds happiness in keeping her husband pleased, at first. Torvald is very dominating over his wife, Nora. He controls her as if she were his own personal property; Nora had to dress a certain way to satisfy her husband, and she also is forbidden by Torvald to eat macaroons. Torvald speaks to Nora as if she were inferior to him; this can be concluded because every time he calls her a pet name, it is usually preceded by the word little to describe it. As a result of Torvald treating Nora like a child, she is shielded from reality.
Nora promoted the inferior role of women during her era, showing no social domination, welcoming their fixed positions in society, by accepting her husband s humiliating treatment. She appears to be quite happy and content with the pet names that her husband has given her, feeling that they are not insults, but words that represent his affection for her. Nora feels her husband is an honorable man who loves her, and treats her in a way that is in her best interests. Nora does realize that she has a responsibility to herself. She feels that she has to liberate herself from all the simple roles she has been assigned. Also, Nora is very dependent on her husband for money, and he gives her money at his discretion. Upon realization, Nora bluntly tells Torvald that before anything else she is a human being. Nora s final discussion with Torvald shows that she is leaving him to learn for herself ( to educate herself ) whether she is justified in finding the roles allowed her by tradition and convention-those of child, wife, and mother- inadequate. She understands that she too should be treated like a human being, and the responsibilities to herself if greater than the responsibilities and obligations to him.
Antigone and Nora Helmer are individuals who rebel against the constraints of their society. They both question the validity of their society s laws, seeing them as arbitrary. Antigone opposes the new laws of Thebes; she refuses to follow the mindset that women cannot be courageous and dangerous. Antigone knows that in the minds of the patriarchal society, the ideal woman is silent, quiet, obedient, and weak. To be anything else would cause difficulty for the men, who are meant to rule over the women. Nora s personal ethical sensibility is within the lineage in Western Civilization. Nora rejects the laws and customs of her society and argues that truly just laws should be based on a sense of morality: I can t get it through my head that the law is fair. A woman hasn t the right to protect her dying father or save her husband s life! I can t believe that. (Act III, 193)
Antigone is faced with the death of both brothers, one who is to be buried with full military rites, while the other, under dictate of the king, is to be cast aside. Placing family before law, she ventures out to give her brother a proper burial. In A Doll s House, Nora too must decide where the line must be drawn between right and wrong. Nora forges her father s name on a note to save her husband s life. Both women break the law using similar justifications. Antigone does so under the belief that all men deserved a proper burial. Likewise, Nora commits her crime with the beliefs that since it is saving a life, her situation does not apply.
The leading men in both works have similar characterizations. Both Creon and Helmer are egotistical men who put too much value on their position of authority. They are both too stubborn to admit they are wrong. The audience expects to see a grateful response from Helmer when Nora reveals her crime to him. Instead, she is greeted with a spiteful and unappreciative man who does not see the true purpose of Nora s deed. Similarly, Creon, instead of seeing that his niece Antigone placed family and the God s before the law of the land, solely see that he has been disobeyed. Both men worry about how their social status will be affected by the actions of the women.
There are many parallels between the transformed Nora who suddenly appears in the last scene and Anouilh s Antigone. In addition, Nora Helmer and Antigone are women who overcome many obstacles as women to develop individuality and self-pride. Despite the many oppressions in a masculine society forced upon them, the women were willing and able to rise above them. In Ibsen s A Doll s House, Nora struggled with her husband Torvald, initially unaware of her submissiveness in the relationship. Despite the inferior attitudes of society towards women, she still found the courage and strength to rise above them. In Anouilh s Antigone, Antigone was clearly a threat to Creon s masculinity and his sense of control. Antigone was strong, and thus transgressed from her boundaries as a woman.