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Escaping the Cage of Marriage in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House

Escaping the Cage of Marriage in A Doll House

A bird may have beautiful wings, but within a cage, the beautiful wings are useless. Within the cage, the bird is not fulfilling the potential for which it was created – it is merely a household decoration. In Ibsen’s symbolic play A Doll House, Nora is the bird, and her marriage is the cage. Externally, Nora is a beautiful creature entertaining her husband with the beautiful images of a docile wife, but internally, she is a desperate creature longing to explore her potential outside the cage of her marriage. In a society dominated by the expectations of men, Nora must choose between the obligations determined by her role as wife in opposition to the obligations of self, in determining her true identity. Within the context of love, she commits forgery, and through this deception, discovers her marriage is nothing more than an illusion, and she nothing more than a doll within Torvald’s house.

In Act I, the Christmas tree symbolizes the Helmer’s marriage. Externally, the tree is beautifully decorated, but internally it is dying because the tree has no roots to feed it. Nora and Helmer are playing the roles that society has taught them. He is the strong provider and protector; Nora is the helpless little woman who depends on him. Like the Christmas tree, the Helmer’s marriage is just an image of beauty, dying on the inside. After Krogstad informs Nora that he intends to blackmail her, she tells the maid to bring her the tree and set it in the middle of the floor (center stage) (1581). Nora begins to decorate the tree:

[I’ll put c]andles here [and] flowers here. That terrible creature!

Talk, talk, talk! There’s nothing to it at all. The tree [is] going to be lo…

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…ond the cage, the beautiful wings carry the bird into a life worth living. A life where the birds have the opportunity to accomplish the obligations of their creation is the only life worth living.

Works Cited

Baruch, Elaine Hoffman. “Ibsen’s Doll House: A Myth for Our Time.” The Yale Review 69 (1980): 374-387.

Gray, Ronald, ed. Ibsen-A Dissenting View: A Study of the Last Twelve Plays. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1961.

Ibsen, Henrick. A Doll House. The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. 5th ed. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999. 1564-1612.

Northram, John. “Ibsen’s Search for the Hero.” Ibsen: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Rolf Fjelde. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965. 107-113.

Templeton, Joan. “The Doll House Backlash: Criticism, Feminism, and Ibsen. PMLA 104.1(1989): 28-40.

Comedy and Tragedy in The Cherry Orchard

Comedy and Tragedy in The Cherry Orchard

Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard serves as a glimpse into the lives of upper middle-class Russians at the turn of the century. The play at times seems to be a regretful account of past mistakes, but at other times it seems very comedic. The final outcome tends to classify it primarily as a tragedy with no shortage of lighthearted moments. It invokes many feelings within the reader: joy, regret, pity, and anger are all expressed among the interactions of several characters with rich and complicated personalities. The reader finds some parts of the characters appealing and some parts disgraceful. This complexity enhances the authenticity of the roles and in turn augments the reader’s emotional involvement.

The play centers on the life and estate of Lubov Ranevskya, a middle-aged woman of land-owning lineage. She is extremely emotional and allows her feelings to guide her decisions. As a result, she is generous and even frivolous with her money, giving her an incredible debt. Mme. Ranevskaya’s brother Gayev is just as emotional as his sister is; however, he possesses a certain intellectual prowess that Lubov lacks. Both characters exhibit Lubov’s tragic flaw: they must continually re-strain themselves from over-expression of their feelings. Another significant character is Lopahin, a local merchant who was raised a peasant but has since acquired much wealth. While the reader enjoys his optimism and respects his business ways, it is tragic that Lopahin sees only the monetary value rather than the sentimental. Lopahin’s character is the opposite of Mme. R., and the reader is just as ambivalent toward both. It is also regrettable that almost every character finds his satisfaction fro…

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…y amiable. Yepihodov’s poor luck, Gayev’s over-expressed emotions, Pishchik’s disregard of wealth, and Charlotta’s magic all tend to classify this play as a comedy, but it definitely has more somber overtones. The loss of the family property is always a sobering subject for the family; they avoid discussing it at every turn. Lopahin, an old family friend, takes on the responsibility of buying and developing the land and therefore causes some friction in the home. It is tragic that the family whose home this is has to leave, and it is tragic that Lopahin never sees this wealth disappearing. Moreover, it is tragic that only Trofimov tries to see the real wealth in life; he breaks ties with economic gain and devotes himself to be a student of life.

Works Cited:

Chekhov, Anton. The Cherry Orchard. Four Plays. Trans. David Magarshack. New York: Hill

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