The objective in writing this report is to compare and contrast two characters from different plays – “A Doll’s House” by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. For this task, the characters of Nora Helmer were chosen from “A Doll’s House” and Amanda Wingfield from “The Glass Menagerie.” Nora and Amanda were selected because despite being two different characters, their traits are similar. Nora and Amanda are deeply flawed characters – Nora exudes childlike innocence and seems to be oblivious to reality, especially the issues or problems in her marriage to Torvald Helmer and how her husband treats her, while Amanda, on the other hand, retreats from reality by dabbling in fantasies. However, throughout the story, Nora and Amanda go through a deep character transformation as a result of their failures, frustrations, and problems. Nora and Amanda’s flaws and frustrations illustrate the challenges that both characters must handle throughout the story and the usual problems that women encounter, while the growth in their character shows how their problems transform them for the better.
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Comparison and Contrast
Nora and Amanda are both deeply flawed characters. In the beginning of “A Doll’s House,” Nora acts like a child and she loves being treated like on by her husband, Torvald. In the first act when Torvald tells her that she should not be careless in spending their money, a sign that they are having financial problems, Nora acts immaturely and ignores Torvald. Nora says, “I don’t suppose I should care whether I owed money or not” (Ibsen). Nora also loves being called “little squirrel” and “featherhead” by her husband. The traits, which can be observed in the beginning of the play, lead the audience to believe that Nora is immature and careless. Amanda’s flaws, on the other hand, are that she also ignores the problems around her and that she constantly nags her husband, Tom Wingfield. While Amanda is aware that and she and Tom are having difficulties with their marriage, she resorts to focusing on other people’s relationships instead. Amanda worries about her daughter, Laura, for instance. Laura says, “Mother’s afraid I’m going to be an old maid” (Williams). Therefore, Nora and Amanda’s shared flaws is that both characters ignore their problems – Nora acts like a child and allows her husband to treat her like one and Amanda refuses to accept the failings in her marriage.
Nora and Amanda’s problems, however, illustrate the usual problems that women experience. The reason why Nora pretended to be weak and dependent on Torvald is that she fears confrontation. Although Nora could have handled their problem directly and talked to Torvald directly about a debt, which they gained because of her husband’s sickness. Nora secretly borrowed money for Torvald and instead of telling him about it, she keeps it a secret because she does not want to undermine Torvald’s sense of authority in their marriage. Amanda’s problems also echo those that women experience traditionally. Although Amanda is unhappy in her marriage, she pushes her daughter to find a man to marry because she fears what society might think of Laura. Amanda says, “I know so well what becomes of unmarried woman… barely tolerated spinsters living upon the grudging patronage of sister’s husband or brother’s wife” (Williams). Therefore, Nora and Amanda’s struggles represent the difficulties that women during must face in a patriarchal society. “Nora lights a male-dominated, suffocating, patriarchal society by deconstructing the doll’s house in which she is imprisoned” (Heller & Ilic, 14). According to Kugler (24), “The Glass Menagerie” shows that patriarchy represses the freedom of women and denigrates their position in society. “Women’s sexuality is repressed or, as in the case of The Glass Menagerie, even denied and sacrificed for a society that favors man over the woman” (Kugler, 24).
Nora and Amanda’s characters illustrate the effect of conflict on the growth and transformation of characters. In “A Glass House,” Nora’s character changes from being childish and oblivious to independent and courageous. In the beginning, Nora allows her husband to treat her like a child, feigning ignorance and obliviousness. However, when faced with conflict, Nora suddenly changes. When Krogstad threatens Nora that he will reveal her secret debt to her husband, Nora feels desperate and even contemplates killing herself. However, during the climax, when Torvald finally learns the truth and expresses his revulsion towards Nora and what she did, she realizes that she should not be ashamed of what she did and of who she is. Knowing that she asked for a loan because of her husband, Nora realizes that Torvald does not love her truly. In the end, instead of staying with her husband, she leaves. In “The Glass Menagerie,” Amanda’s nagging eventually leads to Tom leaving her side. Since Amanda misguidedly learned from her dealings with other people and the society they live in that marriage is important to women and should define them, she should have been falling apart. However, Amanda showed strength by not being affected by her husband’s leave. She approaches the situation by looking forward and moving on and she focuses on being involved with her children’s lives instead.
The comparison and contrast of Nora and Amanda’s characters show their flaws, which is brought about by a patriarchal society, the usual problems and frustrations that women experience due to patriarchy and the growth and character transformation brought about by conflict. Based on the contrast and comparison of the characters, one would surmise that at times, our flaws and mistakes are brought about by the limitations that society sets. Society sets norms, and these norms often control or influence how we act. In both plays, the outcome of a repressive patriarchal society shows how it could be frustrating and challenging for women. Furthermore, the contrast and comparison of the characters show how adverse circumstances helps individuals face their inner demons and eventually overcome their fears and handle their problems.
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