Female morality in A Doll House and Madame Bovary
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Anh Duong Dr. Smith IB World Literature May 26, 2008 Word Count: 1111 Female morality in A Doll House and Madame Bovary Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House and Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary both have female figures as the chief protagonists. Emma Bovary and Nora Helmer share many similarities concerning ethics, but there are distinct divisions between them, especially those regarding their function in a middle-class society and their resorting to dishonored morals to emancipate themselves from the stranglehold of the social order. The morality and its corruption and decay of these women played an imperative role in creating the twisting and tragic plots in these two works of fiction, and they should be comprehensively evaluated and analyzed. Female corruption and moral decay is perhaps the most important theme in A Doll House, and among the main characters, Nora received the most of this attribute. The central conflicts of the play surround a large monetary loan Nora scrounged from Krogstad to enable her family to afford a luxurious vacation to Italy, which revived her husband, Torvald, from a period of mental weakness and failing health.
Her corruption can be witnessed easily through her dealings with Rodolphe. First, she blindly fell in love and engaged in adultery acts with him, knowing that he's a man of many women, but still making herself believe in his "ideal" love. Then, she devastated her health and wrecked her family's property in order to please him while he hurriedly try to dispose of her, regarding her as a clingy child (ironically, that's how Emma feels about her husband). Finally, at the end when she was in desolation, she came to Rodolphe again as a last resort for money, using her seduction to obtain it. Here, Emma turned from a fatuous aspirant lover who is willing to undergo infidelity, the biggest taboo of nineteenth-century France, into an opportunist who's willing to exploit her supposedly "true love" for her own selfish needs. Another instance is her business with Lheureux. First, when she was purchasing extravagant goods from him, she deliberately squandered what little money she had, and went into debt trying to acquire all luxurious commodities she could find, all with the attempt to look sophisticated and superior to her class and no consideration towards her husband and her family.
However, For Emma Bovary, the false she committed was significantly more scandalous that Nora's forgery, showing the extent of moral decay that Emma is willing to extend to achieve what she wants. Moreover, Nora commended her deeds in order to save her husband life, and later she feels extremely guilty about it. Emma, on the other hand, despite her family and all the people that care for her, and all she thinks about is herself and her egocentric desires. Perhaps one should look at each author's philosophy and who they blame for their characters' corruption. Emma never recognizes that her desires are unreasonable, and thus she rails emotionally against the society that, from her perspective, makes them impossible for her to achieve. Similarly, Nora fells that society has placed an iron grip of limitations on her future, and she must strive to break away from it. Nonetheless, in the end, the two women's paths distinguished themselves. Emma died a dreadful death, much contrasted with the life on top of the clouds she always longed for, while Nora successfully escaped from her restrictions, clear her name, and is able to start a new life, one that's she has always wished for, one of independence and honesty. Duong 1
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