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Comparison of A Doll's House and A Streetcar Named Desire

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Introduction

Colin Wick Mrs. Boness IB HL English: Period 4 4/2/10 Prompt #14: "Important characters in plays are multi-dimensional. Discuss to what extent this statement is true of important characters in plays you have studied and comment on the techniques of characterization employed by the playwright." Multidimensional characters can also be defined as dynamic or constantly changing and developing characters. These dynamic characters are not simply important to a play, but are arguably the most important characters because what the playwright intends to communicate to his or her audience is communicated through the changing emotions and behaviors of these characters. Additionally, playwrights use a variety of techniques to highlight the changes an important character may go through. The dialogue, staging and stage directions, setting, music, lighting, and even costumes can all be used to highlight a multifaceted character's emotional and physical changes. In A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen, and A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, the playwrights primarily use costumes, which parallel the emotional and behavioral changes of important dynamic characters, and contrast in dialogue to amplify developments and changes in the characters' relationships and behavior. Ibsen's choice of costume design portrays Nora as a dynamic character in A Doll's House. Ibsen changes Nora's costume to parallel her behavioral and emotional changes in the play. ...read more.

Middle

In A Doll's House, Ibsen also utilizes tension in dialogue, specifically the tension between Nora's inward and outward expression of feelings surrounding worth, to portray Nora as a dynamic character. The playwright first creates a contradiction between her internal and external feelings, only to eventually change her apparent expression to match her true feelings. In the first two acts of the play, Nora's outward expression of a woman's worth revolves around being a good wife and mother by aiming to please Helmer, her husband. However, her inward feelings portray the opposite. Nora inwardly believes that worth involves being true to herself. Nora is outwardly submissive to her husband by allowing herself to be called by possessive pet names, such as his "little spendthrift", his "squirrel", or his "extravagant little person" (Ibsen 2-3). Furthermore, even Nora uses these labels for herself during the first two acts. These names put Nora in a submissive position because they define Nora as a possession of Helmer's. Therefore, when Nora labels herself a skylark or squirrel, she outwardly submits to the will of her husband, proving her external idea of worth revolves around his happiness. However, whenever Nora yields to Helmer, there are undertones of sarcasm within the dialogue portrayed both by the stage directions and the writing. ...read more.

Conclusion

The contrast between the dialogue of the two characters and the connection it has with the social group they identify with highlights their dynamic characteristics by emphasizing Blanche's attempt and ultimate failure to integrate herself into the less aristocratic and educated New Orleans. Therefore, the playwright's effort to contrast the dialogues of Blanche and Stanley facilitates Blanche's representation as a multifaceted and changing character in A Streetcar Named Desire. Analyzing how a playwright portrays his or her dynamic characters gives insight into what the playwright intends to say through their development. For example, Henrik Ibsen uses a single costume to connect the audience with Nora's progression into an autonomous woman in order to focus the audience's attention on a single facet of Nora's life and desires, while Williams uses many costumes with varying degrees of lavishness, to highlight the degree to which Blanche blends reality with fantasy. Furthermore, Ibsen uses tension in dialogue of a single character to keep the audience's focus on Nora, while Williams contrasts the speech of two characters to highlight the contrast between two different social worlds, the new and old South. Therefore, the most important characters in a play are always multidimensional characters because most of a playwright's commentary is included in the development of these characters and analyzing the techniques a playwright employs to distinguish a dynamic character helps to convey meaning. ...read more.

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