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Compare the relationship between Torvald and Nora in A Dolls House with that of Angel and Tess in Tess of the Durbervilles

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Introduction

Compare the relationship between Torvald and Nora in A Doll's House with that of Angel and Tess in Tess of the D'urbervilles Both Henrik Ibsen and Thomas Hardy were groundbreaking authors in the Victorian era, portraying female protagonists as becoming materially and emotionally independent from their male partners. Their depictions of the breakdown of a marriage in their respective works were controversial at the time of publication, but highlight the hypocrisy of the patriarchal Victorian society. The key relationships in each work are fraught with tension, dealing with the men's rejection of their wives and their insistence that societal pressure is more important than love. Both men fall short of their wives' idealistic hopes by rejecting them after their 'crimes' are revealed: although Torvald's "salvation" and attempted reconciliation are played out on a much smaller timescale than Angel's eventual return to his wife, both authors depict the women as morally and emotionally superior to their insincere husbands. A key feature of both relationships is idealism. From the very first scene where Nora "pops the bag of macaroons in her pocket and wipes her mouth", the secrecy and illusion which keep the Helmers' marriage alive is apparent. The macaroons, a running motif throughout the play, symbolise Nora's childishness and her small acts of rebellion against Torvald's paternal role in their marriage. Many symbols of this idealistic fa�ade appear in A Doll's House, including Nora's Italian fancy dress costume which she takes off at the end to represent the ending of the charade. ...read more.

Middle

"Artemis" in particular was the Roman goddess of purity, representing Angel's high regard for Tess' supposed maidenhood and the importance he places on it, which also foreshadows his reaction to her eventual confession. Another key similarity between the two relationships is how the women overestimate the strength of their husbands' characters. Nora believes that Torvald will "step forward and take all the blame" of her crime, an event she terms a "miracle" and refers to in order to bolster herself whenever she fears her secret being revealed. The use of the abstract noun "miracle", with its religious connotations, suggests that Nora idolises Torvald as she would a deity, mirroring Tess' "idolatry" of Angel. Similarly, Tess fails to comprehend that it is entirely possible that Angel's feelings towards her could change, especially as he is so "frank and affectionate" towards her. Hardy further highlights her naivety and her childlikeness when she has a "sudden enthusiastic trust that he surely would forgive her", the pre-modifying adjectives "sudden" and "enthusiastic" demonstrating Tess' failure to grasp the seriousness of her predicament, and her inability to recognise the patriarchal bias of Victorian society when she becomes convinced that her history "'tis just the same" as Angel's "dissipation with a stranger". Both authors show the wives' unswerving trust in their husbands not only to gain sympathy, but to show that they are initially filling the role society provides for them: it is the men who let them down, rather than the women rebelling for no reason. ...read more.

Conclusion

Torvald mocks Nora further, rhetorically asking "How would it help me if you were gone from this world, as you put it?" Ibsen's use of the first person pronoun "me" in this interrogative makes it clear that Torvald is so self-absorbed that he only considers his wife's possible suicide in the way it would affect him. The two husbands continue to overreact and place disproportionate blame on their wives. Interestingly, both Torvald and Angel assume that their wives' less-than-honourable families passed on unattractive characteristics to them. Torvald's exclamation that Nora's "father's recklessness and instability he has handed on to you!" is a total overreaction and shows his lack of knowledge about Nora's real character and personality. Ibsen portrays Torvald as particularly hypocritical, given that he has had the biggest influence over Nora in her adult life and therefore should take some responsibility for her supposed character flaws. Even more unfairly, Angel uses Tess' sensitivity about her ancestors to justify what has happened to her, saying that "decrepit families imply decrepit wills, decrepit conduct". The adjective "decrepit" connotes death and ruin, suggesting that Tess is morally dead to him now. The aftermath of each situation is very different, however. The sudden change in Torvald's demeanour is not entirely realistic, but fits well with the pace of the scene and its melodramatic nature. Ibsen continues the religious semantic field with the passive verb "saved", relating to salvation and rescue from a hideous plight. ...read more.

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