Nora and Tom are the main characters of two plays, the Doll House and the Glass Menagerie respectively. In comparing and contrasting these two characters, it is vital to analyze the plays and to gain and understanding of their personalities and relationships with other people. Nora is the wife of Torvald, and their marriage is characterized by the domination of Tovarld over Nora and her complacent passivity. As a wife during the late 1800s, it was typical of women to have been treated like children with little to no independence.
However, it is the failure of Nora to remain stuck in her gender role as the immature ornament. Tom is the son of Amanda and the brother of Laura, and his position in the family is marked by the absence of his own father. Tom is expected to fully maintain the family, yet his youth and inexperience, coupled by his mother’s demanding exasperation, do not equip him to be a successful head of the household. In analyzing these two characters, it is interesting to note the ways in which Nora and Tom are similar and different in regard to gender roles and passivity.
Gender Roles & Passivity In regard to gender roles and passivity, it is clear that Nora and Tom are caught up in the expectations of other people and playing out stereotypical functions to an extreme degree. Nora herself describes her situation as a wife with no ambitions and blames her husband, saying, “I lived by performing tricks for you… you and father have done me a great wrong… it’s your fault that my life has been wasted” (Ibsen, 1890, 117).
In this comment, one can see the full frustration of Nora in regard to her plight as a fully dependent wife. However, one could dispute her allegation that all of the culpability rests on the shoulders of her husband and not at all on herself. As far as Tom is concerned, he is stuck taking care of his mother and sister, when he would truly rather be making more of a life for himself, stating “I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be” (Williams, 1999, 97).
Tom expresses his irritation with the situation of him being expected to perform all of the duties as the head of the household, a role which he increasingly rejects. Similar to Nora, he finds himself playing a part which he does not want to be playing. However, a vital difference is that Tom takes responsibility for remaining passively in a role which does not suit him and does not try to place the full blame on other people. Conclusion
Nora and Tom are both characters who find themselves doing the bidding of other people in response to social expectations, rather than following their instincts in living their lives more for themselves. While Nora finds herself shaming her husband for her life mistakes, Tom is more apt to shame himself. However, in the end, both characters are able to break free of the gender roles and passivity which have bound them all too closely and dependently to other people.
Nora ends up leaving her husband, just as Tom ends up leaving his wife and mother. While Nora ends the play on a note of anger and full finger pointing, Tome ends the play with a sense of regret that he must leave his family. Nora and Tom are able to escape the oppressive forces in their lives, yet they have markedly different approaches to assigning fault. Works Cited Ibsen, H. (1890). A Doll’s House. W. H. Baker. Williams, T. (1999). The Glass Menagerie. New Directions Publishing.
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