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Compare and Contrast

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ahernandez622
Words 1801
Pages 8
Andrea Hernandez
Professor Natalie Hewitt
Intro to Literature
25 March 2011
Independent Identities A Doll’s House, a play by Henrik Ibsen, and The Darling, a short story by Anton Chekhov, are about two women struggling to find their own independent identities separate from that of their husbands. A Doll’s House is about a husband, Torvald, and his wife, Nora, coming to grips with the fact that their marriage is not exactly what society hypes it up to be, while The Darling is about a woman, Olenka, whom struggles to find her own identity through the midst of her ongoing relationships with her numerous husbands. Both women overcome their own personal obstacles in their own ways, while one ultimately succeeds in at least wanting to find out who and what her own personal identity is, and the other failing, still succumbing to living her life with the need of a strong, male figure. In the first act of A Doll’s House, the reader can see that Torvald and Nora’s relationship is anything but perfect. Nora, a woman who’s never had to work a day in her life, relies solely on her husband to meet her and her family’s financial needs. As the title of the play portrays, Nora lives the life of a doll by constantly living in Torvald’s shadow, being his perfect trophy wife, and doing whatever she is told; she relies solely on her husband for happiness and support throughout every little thing she does. In the beginning of Act One, Nora has just come home from buying Christmas things when Torvald begins to badger her about the money she has been spending only to end up giving her more. This is the first instance in which the reader can also see that Torvald treats Nora as his own property rather than his wife through the names he calls her—“my little lark,” or “my little squirrel” (1.4). Another instance showing that Nora and Torvald’s relationship is rooted deeply in anything but love is also in Act One. Nora, only appearing to be a naïve doll to Torvald, hints that her husband’s affection for her is only skin deep when she explains to Mrs. Linde that, “years from now when I’m no longer so attractive… when Torvald loves me less than now” she would tell Torvald her secret (1.203). Here, Nora begins to portray that she is not as dumb or naïve as she appears to be. Instead, Nora shows that she does understand that Torvald looks at her, treats her, and loves her the way he does for one reason—her outer appearance—which is why she is afraid to tell him her secret. Although Nora constantly works to obtain this facade of the perfect housewife, she does have some secrets of her own that portray a much stronger, independent woman. For example, Nora illegally forges her father’s signature in order to obtain a loan from the bank so that she can take her family and Torvald to Italy for the betterment of Torvald’s health. Though she does this for Torvald and puts her life at risk for the man she thinks she loves, she is taking matters into her own hands and doing what she needs to do to keep her husband alive and her family well.
Throughout the entire play, Nora continually exclaims, “a miracle will take place” (2.341). She explains to Mrs. Linde that if Torvald were to ever find out what she did to obtain the money, Torvald would have to take the blame for her and sacrifice his reputation for her. However, by the end of the play, she realizes this will not happen. Once Torvald finds out about Nora’s forgery in Act Three, he tells Nora
“Its got to seem like everything between us is just as it was—to the outside world that is… from now on happiness doesn’t matter; all that matters is saving the bits and pieces, the appearance” (3.242).
Instead of realizing the risk his wife took in order to save his life, Torvald’s only concern is what others will think of their marriage if they were to find out about Nora’s crime. Thus, coagulating the fact that Torvald is in this marriage for all the wrong reasons. Nora finally sees this and tells Torvald that she, “lived here like a beggar… [She’s] been doing tricks for [him]… the way [he] wanted… [He and papa are] to blame that nothing’s become of me” (3.281). This means that she knows that the love in her marriage is based upon the actions she performs in order to keep Torvald happy; actions she had to do in order to gain love from her father as well. Here, Nora fully opens her eyes to see that she was, and always had been living in a man’s shadow and wants something different for herself. Nora is finally deciding to go out into the real world and finally live her life for herself; something she has never been able to do because her father and Torvald has always held her back. Instead of continuing to let these things hold her back, however, Nora finally obtains her own identity, becoming the strong-willed and independent woman she realizes she wants to be.
Anton Chekhov’s short story, The Darling, is not much different than that of A Doll’s House. In this story, the main character, Olenka, is used to always having a strong male figure in her life no matter what she does. The author explains that Olenka “was always fond of someone, and could not exist without loving” (Chekhov 160). Olenka found herself having to always love someone, whether it was her father, or her aunt, she always needed to have someone to follow around and live through; a type of behavior she began doing as a child and continued to do throughout her entire adult life. The relationship she had with her first husband, Kukin, shows how extreme her devotion and love for another individual can be. She took over his business, and did everything he did because it was all she knew—she could not think for herself or do anything because she wanted to. The author tells the reader that, “like [Kukin] she despised the public for their ignorance…” which tells the audience that she only despised the public because her husband did (Chekhov 160). This was no different with every other aspect of their relationship because Olenka did anything and everything for Kukin and did as she was told up until the day she was informed that he died. Olenka mourned him for three months, living a sad and unhappy life, until another man, Vassily, came along. She was immediately head over heels for this individual, could not get him out of her mind, and before you knew it they were married. Like her relationship with Kukin, Olenka began acquiring the same things her husband did because “her husband’s ideas were hers” (Chekhov 162). Olenka did everything her husband did and followed in his footsteps up until the day he died.
This is the type of relationship Olenka held with every one of her husbands up until her third fling left her all alone. “She had no opinions of any sort” and understood nothing because she had no one to tell her what to think or do (Chekhov 165). She let herself go and was very unhappy. It wasn’t until the last man she was with returned that she began to remember the things she once lived for and became happy again. The fact that the man returned with his wife and child did not bother her at all. Instead, she took all of them in and began carrying for the child as if it were her own.
Olenka simply waited around for any man that would come her way so that she would be able to think, hold an opinion, and live. Without someone around to guide and lead her, Olenka was a lost soul and did not know what to do with her life. When she was alone, Olenka would let herself go and lose all sense of hope. However, whenever someone knew would come into her life she would spend all of her time thinking about them, falling head over heels for them, and living through them. Olenka did this throughout her entire life and never changed (the story ends with her falling asleep, listening to the child cry out in his sleep); she grew old never thinking for herself and gaining her own opinions throughout her life, she lived vicariously through each individual she came into contact with and could not live any other way.
Both Nora and Olenka struggle to find out who they really are and have some one thing in common. At the beginning of the play, Nora does anything and everything for Torvald because a life led by a man is all that she knows. Olenka, doing everything she possibly can for each and every one of her husbands, too, does not know anything different; she’s constantly followed her husbands around, doing what they do and thinking how they think.
However, by the end of each story, the audience can see that they are actually more different than alike. Nora forging her signature proved the type of courage she had and willingness to do anything for her family, a most admirable trait. While Olenka sat back and never took matters into her own hands, instead she lived through her husbands and let them call the shots. At the end of the play, Nora is able to stand up for herself, leave everything behind and begin a new life. However, Olenka sat around waiting for someone to come to her so that she may be able to live a happy life again. Instead of refusing to let the vet and his family settle in with her after he’s left her alone for so long, she allows them to come into her house and make a home for themselves. Olenka never realized the type of life she lived; she was content with being the way she was and never changed her for the better.
Both Nora and Olenka go through a lot of ups and downs throughout their stories. However, Nora learns from her past mistakes and wants a change, which is why she obtains an independent identity by the end of the play. Olenka, though, does not learn anything and continues to live her life through whomever she is with and does not gain her own identity. Works Cited
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. A Pocketful of Plays. Ed. David Madden. New York: Harcourt
Brace & Company, 1996. Print.
Chekhov, Anton. The Darling and Other Stories. Macmillan Company, 1916. Print.

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