Select either A Raisin in the Sun or A Doll's House, and write a 5-paragraph essay explaining how the play reflects the society in which it was produced. This essay is worth 100 points.
Theater and Society Assignment
To enhance the understanding and enjoyment of a play production, it is important to be familiar with the history, the culture, psychology, and philosophy of the period in which the was written. There is a very close relationship between art and the society which produced it. In The Theater Experience, Wilson states that ” art represents the society in which it was produced. With very few exceptions – and those are soon forgotten – art is a mirror of its age, revealing prevailing attitudes, underlying assumptions, and deep seated beliefs of a particular group of people.”
Write a 5-Paragraph Essay
Select either A Raisin in the Sun or A Doll’s House, and write a 5-paragraph essay explaining how the play reflects the society in which it was produced. This essay is worth 100 points
Sample Essay Answer
Henrik Ibsen’s artistic works stir up a myriad of sensitive issues among societies and this 1879 play “A Doll’s House” is no exception. Amongst the critical issues of the play is marriage. In Henrik Ibsen’s view, man and woman should enjoy equal rights and freedom in marriage. This view attracts lots of criticism with many of his critiques conceiving his ideology as an abuse of marriage institution. A Doll’s House does not only address women’s rights but also points out human rights in general. Most importantly, the play’s relevance to its title is justified by how women are treated in the Norwegian society. Just as Nora says in page “Torvald has his pride-every man has”, (161), women are used as dolls or rather toys to be played with and to be admired by men while men themselves crave integrity and pride. Nora says that she will not reveal her secret of having borrowed money because her husband “he’d be terribly hurt and humiliated if he thought he’d owed anything to me”, (161). At this point women make greater sacrifices; they live a life of hardship too and are vulnerable to societal evils like cruelty and blackmails. The story revolves around the life of Nora and arguably she the character that vitally justifies Ibsen’s figuration, of the doll Torvald and others use within the story for social up rise.
The Norwegian society believes in superstition as depicted by the following examples. First Dr. Rank believes that evil deeds performed by a parent are bound to haunt the children back. He claims that it is his father’s promiscuity that made him contact a venereal disease and he also passed to his son. Similarly, Torvald forbids his wife from raising their children claiming she will infect them with deceit and corruption. Importantly, Torvald, Nora s well as Dr. Rank believe parents must be upright and honest in order to raise good families. In the Norwegian society, a good family earns you respect, that is why Torvald dreads his wife borrowing money then angers because he fears for people losing respect for the Helmers. However, most families do not care for their relatives; for example, Nora realizes that her father married her to Torvald out of just amusement rather than love, “thought it was enjoyable to be in love with [her]”, (147).
This play presents a society dominated by male chauvinism. As the readers interact with characters like Nora, we see how this society treats women as mere toys. First, Torvald uses Nora to seek economic stability in Italy and fails recognize his wife’s love for the family, instead, he calls her a liar. Torvald tells Nora that, “…an atmosphere of lies like that infects and poisons the whole life of home”, (175-176). Secondly, Krogstad intends to take advantage of Nora’s debt to bargain his way being reinstated in Torvald’s bank and failure to which he would use blackmail as venom to kill the highly valued reputation for Helmers family. He warns Nora by saying, “…you’ve been warned, so don’t do anything stupid…it’s your husband who’s forced me to do this sort of thing again”, (200). On a greater extent, women suffer insubordination and the only choices they have are fear and submission. Nora says, “If anyone is in a subordinate position Mr. Krogstad, they should be careful to avoid offending those who…who…” (12). Of course, those who have influence as Mr. Krogstad completes the statement.
Women struggle is another outstanding feature of the society depicted here. Men can easily manipulate their ways to stay comfortable in the society; women however, find it so hard to do so. The latter are surrounded by challenges and pain which make it so hard for them to fit in and if they do, it takes so long. For example, it has taken Nora eight years in marriage but still cannot fit well even in her own family. She tells her husband that “they do not understand each other”, (198) and laments how men in this society are drunk with ego and pride, then she calls Torvald petty. This pride makes women look silly, ignorant and powerless but in essence these women struggle to reveal their true nature. First, at the beginning of the play, Nora looks silly, weak and submissive. For example, Torvald demeans her and tells her, “I’ll go sit in the inner room and shut the doors, so you can make all the noise you like- I shan’t hear it”, (190). But as the play continues, Nora proves inspirationally clever inspiration. Despite her husband even calling her “my squirrel”, (1), she is strong-willed. Mrs. Linde on the other hand finally reveals to Krogstad how she loved him but she was just struggling to get the best for her children even if it meant sacrificing her true love.
Finally, Ibsen depicts the complexity and unpredictability of a society in this piece of art and warns us against judging a book by its cover. The unpredictability of this society is embodied in characterization. If we were to pre-empt, we would describe Nora as a cowardly, silly weak woman but as the story unfolds, she is a complete opposite; a brave, strong-willed caring woman. For the love of family, she not only sacrifices her duty to care for her sick parents to be with her sick husband, but she also borrows money send the family to Italy to seek economic stability. We could also judge Mrs. Linde as opportunistic after leaving Krogstad for a rich man, but we later sympathize with her for sacrificing her true love just to ensure her children do not suffer. And we could have called Krogstad cruel for blackmailing Nora, but when he takes back his letter and agrees to remarry Mrs. Linde, he proves sympathetic, understanding and loving. Contrastingly, we believed Torvald to be brave, powerful, caring, responsible and loving man. But when he tells Nora, “we should not spend so recklessly”, (3), he reveals himself as mean, spiteful and proud. He is not only obsessed with controlling his family but craves for respect from junior employees like Krogstad. Therefore “A Doll’s House” compels readers to realize the place of women and urges us to support them in the society. When Nora slams the door of her “Doll house“ as she exits, it signifies that women are eager to break loose from the mistreatments of the society. With this very understanding we should not demean and misjudge others.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Sheba Blake, 2013. Print.
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