Theme Of Self Discovery In The Awakening And A Doll's House

1178 words - 5 pages

The Theme of Self-discovery in The Awakening and A Doll House

    In Chopin's The Awakening and Ibsen's A Doll House, the main characters each experience an awakening. Although they lead different lives, Nora Helmer and Edna Pontellier's respective awakenings are caused by similar factors. From the beginning, neither character fits the standard stereotype of women in the society in which they lived. Another factor that influences Nora and Edna's awakenings is their marital relationship. Neither Nora nor Edna are treated as an equal by their husband. When each woman realizes that she is unhappy, she understands that she must leave her position and role in life in order to fully find ...view middle of the document...


The marriages of Edna and Nora are unhappy ones. Each of the husbands treats his wife as property, instead of as a person of equal merit. Leonce Pontellier, Edna's husband, is a very possessive man. His possessiveness is shown in the beginning of the novel when he looks at a sunburned Edna "as one looks at a valuable piece of personal property which has suffered some damage" (Chopin 2). Because he thinks of her as a piece of property, Leonce expects Edna to "listen to his talk, to make love when he is aroused, to assist him socially, to supervise his servants and his children, and generally to function efficiently and quietly toward his well-being and satisfaction" (Ewell 148). Nora's husband, Torvald, also believes that Nora is his property. In the beginning of the play, Torvald makes the audience aware of this fact when he calls Nora his "little lark" who is "twittering" around (Ibsen 43). This makes Nora seem less of a person and more of a thing that is cute and pleasant to have around.


Neither of the women is experiencing true love in their marriages. Edna has had a few crushes but has never totally fallen for someone until she meets Robert. Leonce and Edna's marriage was "purely an accident" (Chopin 23). He had fallen in love with Edna and tried to win her with "an earnestness and an ardor which left nothing to be desired" (23). Her father and sister were also violently opposed to her marriage to a Catholic man, which gave her more reason to marry Leonce. On one occasion, Leonce wakes Edna from a deep sleep saying that one of the children is ill, because he wants to show his power. The child is fine, and Edna is upset. She sits on the porch and cries, because she realizes that Leonce's feelings are not those of true love.


Similarly, Nora naively thinks that her marriage happened because of true love. She loves Torvald, although it is not a passionate love, and is safe with the feeling that he loves her, too. At the end of the play, when she reveals her secret, Nora finds out Torvald's true feelings for her. When she tells him that she has forged her father's signature, he is only worried about what people will say about him. As Clurman says in his analysis of the play, "She to whom love is everything, above the letter of the law, public opinion,...

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