A comparison of two female heroes: Nora in Ibsens A Dolls House and Antigone in Sophocles Antigone

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Anton Malyshev


A comparison of two female heroes: Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Antigone in Sophocles’ Antigone

The character of Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Antigone of Sophocles’ Antigone, two women that chose to rebel against society in order to achieve something that they believe strongly in. The different cultures that embrace these two plays, allow for many parallels between the values of both men and women. These two protagonists are definitely similar in some ways, due to the fact that in both situations these is an obvious repression of women and that these women are both striving for something that is against the law. However, there are several key differences between the characters of Nora and Antigone. These differences, although not guarding them from reaching their ultimate goals, do manage to give us a clear distinction between the two protagonists..

Antigone, based in ancient Greece, repeatedly demonstrates examples of the oppression of women. From the first scene, when Antigone is talking to Ismene about her plan to bury Oedipus, the repression of females is evident. Ismene is clearly terrified of defying Creon’s laws, which would put ultimate disgrace upon their lives. Ismene emphasizes this point by stating that “[They] are women and such are not made to fight with men.”(Sophocles, 193) By this statement, Ismene shows us that the society has forced the inferiority of women so strongly, that even they believe that their sex is helpless against the ‘superior’, male sex. Antigone however, steps over this barrier and puts her brother’s burial in front of not only the law, but also the values of their society. The view of women in the times of Ancient Greece was more extreme than that of the late 19th century, the time when Ibsen's, A Doll’s House takes place. In A Doll’s House, the oppression of women is a little more passive; the people of this time referred to the subject with a certain degree of subtly. Instead of openly stating that women are inferior, as Creon does in Sophocles’ play, Torvald uses certain euphemisms to portray these values. For example, when Torvald and Nora are discussing Nora’s spendings, Torvald says, “My little song-bird must never do that again. A song-bird must have a clean beak to chirp with – no false notes.”(Ibsen, 26) Torvald’s view of Nora is like a doll, except one that also cleans the house and takes care of his kids. This notion of a ‘perfect housewife’ is one that is constantly reoccurring in Ibsen’s novel.

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The audience does not feel the oppression of women as much in A Doll’s House as they do in Antigone. This is because of the large difference in the time periods of the two plays. Also, Torvald seems to approach Nora in a very passionate way, one that masks the strong feeling of superiority that men felt. Even though the view of women in Antigone might seem more radical, especially when Creon throws out comments such as: “No woman while I live shall govern me.”(Sophocles, 214) or “You woman’s slave!”(Sophocles, 224), the euphemisms that Torvald uses are actually just as repressive, ...

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