Henrik Ibsen Marrital Relationships Essay, Research Paper
In Henrik Ibsen’s plays, A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler he develops marital relationships between characters along with the plays plot. Having unique characteristics the different actors respond differently to the situations given to them. I will be analyzing these marital relationships between characters while comparing and contrasting these results between the three plays. The areas that I will be examining include gender roles, social influences and expectations, interpersonal dynamics and the context of motherhood.
In A Doll’s House Ibsen focuses on the way women are seen, especially in the context of marriage and motherhood. This can be seen clearly by Torvalds narrow views of a women and her role as a “good” wife and mother. He explains to Nora that women are responsible for the morality of their children. He sees women as children and the helpless creatures that are detached from reality. Women are also the influential moral forces that are responsible for the purity of the world by their influence within the home. As a first impression Nora plays a very generous and open role. She seems to be very content in her surroundings and acts toward her husband in a very caring and loving way. She gives the impression that she is extremely dependent on her husband and would do nothing to hurt him. In the beginning of the play there are a few hints that contradict the true nature of how Nora really is deep down inside. There are a few instances in which Nora lies to her husband even before we ever find out about the big lie which is her marriage. She is confronted about eating some cookies she flat out lies to Torvald and tells him no. Another example is displayed when her husband asks her about the presence of Krogstad and again she lies to him. The difference with this second act of deceit she has been caught in the lie since Torvald had just seen Krogstad leave the house. The big lie that Nora has been living is her entire marriage with Torvald and who she really is deep inside. Nora is bursting with independency and tward the end of the play this becomes evident. The knowledge of this could corrupt the home and kids and destroy everything she ever had. This unique aspect of this situation is that this environment that she is living in the present is the exact same as the life she lived as a child with her father.
In the second play Hedda Gabler portrays a character that is different from that of Nora. Hedda speaks clearly and tells it how it really is. She has absolutely no respect for her husband and this is clear to everyone except him. Hedda has no joy in life and condemns anything that puts happiness in everyone else. There is a clear example of this characteristic from the very moment Hedda is introduced to us. The first comment is directed to the person that had left the door open and allowed all of the sunlight to enter into the room. Other examples are her lack of joy for her pregnancy, the fact she has no real meaningful relationships with anyone and finally her lack of respect and love for her own husband.
In these two play the role of the husbands is also are highly contrasted. Torvald is the “man” of the house and whatever he says is what goes. He tells Nora her place in the house and as long as she respects that he has no problem with her. Nora, symbolizing women in general to Torvald, is called a number of names throughout the play. Names include “little songbird”, “squirrel” and “little skylark.” Torvalds constant use of the modifier “little” before the names for Nora suggests his superiority to Nora. He has chosen the names to reinforce his ideas of not seeing her as an equal. In a since she is only a doll and at times a pet that were created for Torvald. Tesman on the other hand is somewhat of a wimp with Hedda. In the play he is in an inferior class when compared to his wife and seems to be afraid of her. He waits on her hand and foot and is in this imaginary world of love that does not exist. His wife is the prized possession in their community and he is fooled into believing that she loves him for him and nothing else.
Social influences and expectations between the two main characters, Nora and Hedda, greatly differ between the two. Nora portrays the passive wife that is ever faithful to her husband. She wants to do what is correct according to the social standards she had been living. The best example to describe this personality trait is her dancing routine that she performs for her husband and later performs at a Christmas party. That whole act is exactly what her husband wanted and shows to the community that nothing is ever wrong in her household.
Hedda on the other hand is completely opposite that of Nora in many aspects of social influences. She is within a higher social class than her husband and treats him and his friends and family as if she is in a better social class. She does not even like to talk to others that are below her, she even goes as far as to insult his family members ridiculing his aunts hat. She pretends that she thought it was the maids’ garment but later we find out that she knew all along that it was his aunts’ hat. The only time she seems to relax is in the presence of Mr. Brack. In a life with social classes, Hedda sees Mr. Brack as an equal to her and his presence makes her feel at home.
Interpersonal relationships between all the characters in their respected plays suggests a lot about each individuals thoughts and beliefs. Nora’s constant lying to her husband shows to the audience that in reality she is a very independent individual. Nora’s relationship with her kids is extremely important and what Torvald has instilled into her head helps her in the decision to leave them. At the end of the play she decides to leave everyone in regards to the happiness of her family. This type of act was definitely something that is not done when the play was written. The thought of a wife leaving her husband on her own free will caused a lot of controversy in the real world and many big named actresses would not even take the part of Nora because of this. It makes the statement of Nora’s individuality and her willingness not to be treated as a doll for the rest of her life.
Hedda does not really have much of a relationship with anyone. She tries to distance herself from everyone to avoid any sort of scandal directed towards her. She feels a close relationship with Mr. Brack but chooses not to let the two of them become close. These two characters are at the same level in respect to social class but once Brack makes an advance she has to gracefully decline. In the event there would be a third to the triangle, there is the chance that there could be a scandal against her. With respect to her husband, Tesman, she actually want to have nothing to do with him. She made it clear that the reason for marring him had nothing to do with love but more about what is she going to do with her life. She is not getting younger and the only thing she could do is become married. She says that Tesman was the nicest man towards her and he really went out of his way to treat her good.
When comparing the two plays it becomes clear that their exists some similarities but mainly differences between the respective character roles. Both Nora and Hedda are independent individuals but only Hedda portrays this throughout the entire production. It takes till the end of “A Doll’s House” for Nora to actually come out of her shell and prove to the world that she is independent and nothing can stop her. The roles of the husbands are also very different between the two plays. One man is dominating and likes his wife to abide by his rules and the other man is just excited and happy that his woman is with him and not anyone else. These two plays explore the husband-wife relationships and portray two different scenarios with two completely different outcomes.