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Free «Secrets in Conjugal Relationships» Essay Sample

In modern society, people’s feelings and desires are limited by rules of law and morality, especially when they relate to marriage and conjugal relationships. In The Storm, Kate Chopin raised a moral issue of adultery between characters of the short novel-Calixta and Alcee. She discussed the questions based on the metaphor of storm and the lack of passion in Calixta and Bobinot’s marriage. Similarly, in A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen scrutinized an issue of a marriage lacking love. He depicted relationships between Nora and Torvald and showed how imperious attitude and misunderstandings ruined conjugal relationships eventually. Both stories are connected by a common problem of secrets that arose from misunderstandings between the spouses. They solved the problem of misunderstanding in different ways, depending on cultural and personal distinctions of the characters. Therefore, the stories ended differently. Chopin concluded that the adulterous act made positive short-term changes in the marriage depicted in The Storm. In contrast, Ibsen ended his play A Doll’s House by stating that lack of understanding and communication led to the marriage collapse.



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In her short novel The Storm, Chopin explained how an extramarital affair between Calixta and Alcee became a factor benefiting the marriage. Chopin ended the story with the words, “So the storm passed, and everyone was happy.” (123) The story is interesting not only because of the conclusion that infidelity had a beneficial short-term outcome to the family relationships, but also by intricacies that resulted in the happy end. In the middle of the novel, Chopin utilized “the house” as a metaphor that meant “the family” in the Western culture. After the storm had passed, the “house” was standing still on the “firm ground”, which meant that relationships between Calixta and her lover were weaker than her family ones. Besides, Chopin described “sexual restraints of the time” (Bartee n. pag.). Comparing the intersexual relations to the coming storm, she made a parallel between people’s behavior with the strength of the natural event, she showed how uncontrollable can they be when are released. Moreover, in the parallelism, we may see the looming sexual revolution that changed relationships of the genders. However, before the time came, no secret of the woman’s nature has been revealed.

The story began with a description of the cloudy, but happy family life that was like a reflection of the weather depicted in the beginning of the novel. An ideal father, Bobinot, enjoyed playing with Bibi a “guess what a cloud portrays” game that they used to play regularly (119). His wife, seeing such a care about their son, did not even think about a possibility to commit infidelity first. Besides, Bobinot was a loving and caring spouse too. For example, when he went out for a walk and visited a store, he bought “a can of shrimps, of which Calixta was very fond” (120).

Calixta felt herself quite comfortably in the marriage. When she stayed home alone, she “felt no uneasiness for their safety” (120), because she trusted the husband an believed in his ability to take care of the child. Moreover, both Bibi and Bobinot complied with the house rules that the housewife and the mistress of the house, Calixta, set. Thus, when they came back after the storm, Bobinot obediently “scrapped the mud off” (123) the clothes of the boy and entered the house carefully, being a little afraid of the wife who set strict rules of cleanness in the house.

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However, when she stayed home in a company with the young man, who was her former lover, she was tempted to refresh her past sexual experiences. She was a young and attractive woman deserving love of her husband and steadfast glances of strangers, therefore she felt anxiety before the face of the storm as well as because of presence of the attractive man sheltering in her house (120). Though Calixta valued her conjugal relationships very much, she decided to submit to her lust and exchange her emotional affection toward her husband for the intercourse that was “just physical without any emotion involved”, proves Burtee. The controversy made her nervous and, besides bodily pleasures, caused agitation and a sense of remorse in her soul, so that she “sprang up when they came in” (122). However, as the storm broke out, she forgot her alarm regarding the husband and the boy safety, which, as she properly expected, should have found some place to hide from the gale while her sexual intercourse (122).

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The strong emotional bonds between Bobinot and the wife made Calixta nervous when she was waiting for the “storm” of a brawl that her loving husband could hurl at her. Bartee suggests that the storm might be caused by the husband behavior who “avoided the stormy passions that his wife is clearly capable of” (n. pag.). After the storm, Calixta ensured warm and sentimental family atmosphere and kept in secret her accidental sexual contact with the married man. The fear of the family collapse made her care for the child and Bobinot better. She waited their return from the walk anxiously, because, probably, she was not sure whether her mystery would remain concealed.

After the sexual intercourse, the story seems to have ended happily for all the sides involved, with few questions remained unanswered. At first, though Calixta decided to conceal the infidelity act from her husband, the author indicated how a little suspicion arisen in Bobinot. When they came back, Calixta that was too busy with her fresh emotional experience and “seemed to express nothing but satisfaction at their safe return” (122). Secondly, though Alcee’s wife received an unexpected letter from her husband allowing her to stay at the resort another month, she hardly could have accepted the news easily, being so “devoted to her husband” and having such a wonderful “conjugal life” (123) far from home, offering her stay there for another month. In a summary, though the short story “ended happily”, another storm would soon come and nobody knows whether the “houses” of the lovers would endure blows of a consequently revealed truth about infidelity.

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Similarly, in his play A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen proved that keeping secrets might be helpful for an established family life, but harmful for candid relationships. He provided a few reasons that were necessary to save the marriage and showed how distrust and disregard impaired it. Throughout the first two parts of the play, the family relationships between Tolvard and Nora seemed to be strong and flawless. But, consequently a reader reveals that they were based on lies and lack of desire to understand each other. Though the husband appeared to be a loving spouse and father in the beginning of the story, he was insincere in conjugality and played with his wife rather than loved her. In fact, Nora was just another child to take care of in Torvald’s mind. Unlike him, Nora loved the husband purely and innocently, as a faithful wife. However, a marriage is a voluntary union of equal spouses, where one cannot disregard another endlessly and fails because of distrust and disregard.

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In the very beginning of the play, the author portrayed a full husband’s control over the family finances and his banning the wife to have the right of voice on the subject. For instance, the house was “furnished comfortably and tastefully, but not extravagantly” (Ibsen 3), because Nora could not spend the family money on something more elegant. In another instance, Torvald conducted an investigative interrogation, when she bought some gifts for Christmas, asking her, “Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?” (4) Though his tone was half-joking and half-serious, his attitude to Nora was offensive, because, in fact, she “always bought the simplest and cheapest things” for herself (15) and only the necessary cloth and some toys for their three children.

Moreover, Torvald had almost no trust in Nora. In the first act of the play, he was reproaching her for a frivolous way of spending money. He said, “If you were really to save out of the money I give you, and then really buy something for yourself. But if you spend it all on the housekeeping and any number of unnecessary things, then I merely have to pay up again” (5).  In that place, the author showed how first “cracks” in the family “plate” appeared. Better understanding of Torvald’s attitude to the place of her wife in taking financial decisions is the clue to comprehension of his real feelings toward her.

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Because of her deprivation of the right of voice, she took a crucial financial decision secretly, behind her husband’s back. Instead of telling Torvald about her intention to borrow some money, Nora kept it secret and triggered her husband’s rage when he uncovered the lie. Moreover, as Goldman asserts, the family relationships demand “continuation of the lie” and “the social conception of duty insists that for the sake of that lie she need be nothing else than a plaything, a doll, a nonentity.” (n. pag.) Thus, Nora, who was a loving wife, could not let her husband die and borrowed a heap of money to spent for their travel to Italy where he was healed (14). She tried to talk to him on the subject beforehand, but he insisted that he needed no debts all the time. Therefore, she was discouraged from any further communication on the subject and did exactly as Torvald used to do in serious questions, took the decision on her own, deciding to tell him about that debt later. If Nora had informed Torvald that she wanted to borrow money, a conflict would never have happened. However, if the family relationships had been strong, the quarrel would not have happened at all or had much lower “storm” magnitude. Besides, Nora expected that her loving husband would not reproach her for the act, because it all was done in his own sake and she sacrificed a lot to his health.

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Therefore, there was lack of communication between them as Nora said, “ We've been married now for eight years. Doesn’t it occur to you that this is the first time we two, you and I, man and wife, have ever talked seriously together?” (Ibsen 73). This quote shows that the communication was poor throughout their entire marriage and there is nothing worse that to live with a complete “stranger” (Goldman n. pag.) Thus, lack of understanding and frank communication was deepening the abyss in their relationships. The culmination of the story reveals to us Torvald’s real attitude to his wife and explains why she took a decision to leave the family. When the secret was exposed, Torvald did not refrain himself from insulting Nora in every possible way calling he a “foolish woman”, a “miserable creature”, “a hypocrite”, “a liar”, and “a criminal” (71).

However, the worst accusations could not have outweighed the solution to the problem he proclaimed: “And as for you and me, it must appear as if everything between us were just as before— but naturally only in the eyes of the world.” (71) Thus, he revealed his real face showing that the career is over their marriage and, fearing to lose his job, he was ready to end his once happy conjugal relationships. Nora, who understood Torvald perfectly well that time, explained him how a husband who really loved her wife should have conducted: “I was so absolutely certain that you would say to him: Publish the thing to the whole world.” (78) She blamed him in lack of love, and said, “You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got the same tastes as your else I pretended to, I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald.” (76) By saying that, as Goldman proves, Nora “proclaims the revolutionary message that only perfect freedom and communion make a true bond between man and woman.” Therefore, though many books would have supported the husband’s attitude to the subject matter as a correct one, she preferred to leave the family where she pretended but did not live a real life.

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Summarizing the analysis, I may conclude that, though the writers described different situations of life, both writings shared the similar problem of family relations—secrets caused by lack of love, and harmful consequences of distrust and disregard to conjugal relations. Though “the house” of Bobinot and Calixta passed “the storm” successfully, the secret of her infidelity became an unbearable load that might cause unpredictable conditions in future. On the contrary, the secret of Nora that was kept unrevealed because of her naivety, passionate and pure love to the husband, did not contain any vicious deeds or intentions. However, upon revealing the secret, the true attitude of the couple to each other uncovered and Nora preferred to live alone to life with the husband who called her a criminal and decided to part with her for a formal mistake that saved him love.


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