Dramatic Literature Essay
In the realist drama “A Doll House”, Ibsen effectively employs dramatic conventions to expose the flawed value system of the bourgeoisie, regarding the institutions of marriage, prejudice gender roles and personal integrity. Moreover, the dramatic tension on the play is heightened through Ibsen’s subversion of the well-made play and the melodramatic denouement at the beginning of each act. In essence, Ibsen satirises the stifling moral climate of the bourgeoisie in conditioning an individual’s identity, in the pursuit for self-determinism. The imposition of prejudice gender roles are brought to life through the doll house metaphor, illuminating the entrapment of the bourgeoisie. Metaphorically, the doll house is a moral safeguard for values of social determinism, which Ibsen exposes the limitations of external forces in conditioning Nora’s existence as a doll. Her internalisation of the pre-determined housewife role and Torvald’s internalisation of the patriarch role maintains the illusory deception of the doll house. Nora’s objectification is enforced through Torvald’s gendered language, “my songbird”, “lark” and squirrel” and the diction of “my” connotes Torvald’s ownership of Nora in their superficial marriage.
Simultaneously, Torvald’s strict adherence to patriarchal ideologies, limits his capacity to empathise with Nora’s cry for emancipation, evident in the subtext “give me pennies of my own”. Essentially, Ibsen successfully adopts the doll house metaphor to attack the mores of patriarchy, which forces Nora to compromise her identity and freedom to rigid social ideologies. The superficial institutions of marriage disfigure one’s sense of personal identity, justifying Nora’s cry for liberation from patriarchal ideologies which disempower women of her time. The combination of the stage direction “wagging his finger” and the patronising tone “was little Ms Sweet Tooth naughty?” showcases the detriments of social oppression in limiting one’s ability to undergo self-actualisation. The diction “little” connotes Nora’s submission to Torvald’s internalisation of dominant ideologies, mirroring the disempowerment of women in the bourgeoisie.
Moreover, the symbolic Tarantella dress reflects Torvald’s idealised perception of Nora as his “pretty little thing”, reiterating Nora’s objectification. The power imbalance within the Helmer marriage justifies Nora’s deceit, evident in the dramatic irony “I wouldn’t do anything you’d disapprove of”. This notion is juxtaposed with Nora’s statement “I saved Torvald’s life [by] signing my father’s name [and] got the money”. Nora’s deception subverts Torvald’s strict adherence to the imposed social ideologies, which Kristine echoes these patriarchal sentiments, “a wife cannot borrow money without her husband’s permission”. The conflict of gender limitations drives the tragic force of the play in Act 1, ending at a climactic moment to heighten the tension in Act 2. In essence, Ibsen successfully generates a greater degree of empathy for Nora, as he mirrors the disempowerment of the social and economic limitations of women in the bourgeoisie. Ibsen’s rich exploration of the bourgeoisie, inevitably results in Nora’s detachment from her doll metaphor.
Kristine and Krogstad function as catalysts for Nora’s transformation, through illuminating the truth of the Helmer marriage, “no more lies, tricks… they must understand each other”. While Krogstad initiates the tragic force of the play through his symbolic letter in Act 2. Ibsen establishes the juxtaposition of the authentic relationship of Krogstad and Kristine to the superficiality of the Helmer marriage, compelling Nora to transcend the limitations of the bourgeoisie. Moreover, the parallel of Nora and Krogstad subverts the values of social determinism, as Krogstad elevates himself through the social hierarchy despite being deemed “morally sick”. Essentially, an unexpected union of the two derives from a compromised understanding, as both characters are criminalised for their acts of personal integrity. Thereby, Ibsen invites the audience to evaluate their personal values, emphasising the importance of self-determinism overriding social conformity.
Ibsen exposes the flawed value system of the bourgeoisie, and forewarns of the detriments of an individual’s life being overridden by social morality. The dramatic irony of the Tarantella dance “anyone’d think your life depended on this dance” and Nora’s statement “31 hours to live” foreshadows the impending death of Nora’s doll metaphor. This is further accentuated through Finney’s statement of Nora’s cry for emancipation from the Tarantella dance, evident in “she returns from her frenzied state, back to the role of a wife and mother, only as a springboard from which to emancipate herself.” Moreover, Nora evolves from a doll identity in Act 1, evident in Rosenburg’s claims “Ibsen began with a maltreated stuffed Nora doll” to an awakened woman in Act 3. Her transformation demolishes the artificial foundations of the doll house, thus revealing the harsh winter landscape, embodying reality.
Therefore, it is best “to go out into the real world, and discover the truth for [herself] and [her] values”. Moreover, Ibsen’s subversion of the well-made play is evident in the final scene of the play, where Nora “slams the door” and leaves the audience with a climactic ending. Ibsen juxtaposes the beginning and final scene of the play to showcase the disparity of Nora’s transition throughout the play. Her first appearance connotes her disempowerment in the bourgeoisie lifestyle, which is then contrasted to the final scene, where she “puts on the cloak and turns on the lights”. The illumination of the truth compels Nora to extricate herself from the illusory deception of the door house, thus abandoning the false union of her superficial marriage and burden of motherhood. In essence, Nora is virtually unrecognisable by the end of Act 3, as Ibsen courageously abandons the doll metaphor, thus emphasising the importance transcending social limitations to maintain an identity.
Mirroring Austen’s social satire “Pride and Prejudice”, Weldon grapples with the significance of context and questions of values in her didactic epistolary novel “Letters to Alice”. Moreover, both composers utilise form as a vehicle to socially critique their contemporaries, thus reinforcing the didactic purpose of invoking ideological change. This is achieved through the examination of the institutions of marriage, moral education, Literature, prejudice gender roles and social stratification. Weldon examines Austen’s social satire in exploring the changing facets of marriage, thus reshaping our perception of the connection that links the 18th century marriage customs to that of the modern martial practices. The contextualisation of a Georgian woman emphasises the gender injustices prevalent in the 18th century Regency England. Moreover, marriage was depicted as a social contract for economic survival, evident in Charlotte’s pragmatic characterisation, who married Mr Collins out of practicality rather than “general similarity of feelings and taste”.
Mrs Bennet also reinforces these sentiments, as the “business of her life was to get her daughters married”, therefore, Mrs Bennet and Charlotte’s strict adherence to social conventions of marriage reinforces its idealistic prospect of being the “only honourable provision”. Weldon justifies the Georgian woman’s outlook of marriage through the statistics “only 30% of women married” and asserts Alice “you must understand the world in which Austen was born in”. Thereby, the modern audience is able to grapple with the significance assigned to marriage in Austen’s world, through Weldon’s insight. In essence, Austen satirises the flawed value system regarding the institutions of marriage through her adoption of caricatures and irony. Weldon acts as a facilitator for the modern audience to gain a holistic understanding of “P+P”, through her examination of the gender injustices prevalent in Austen’s era. Patriarchy prevailed in the 18th century, meaning life was founded on the basis of marriage, as women were limited to the narrow confines of work, “women’s trade – millinery, embroidery, prostitution… or you could get married”.
Weldon’s satirical comment reveals the prejudice gender roles in disempowerment women in the 18th century, thus asserting “it was a horrible time to be alive”. This is further accentuated through Charlotte’s pragmatism, who “does not think highly of men or matrimony” and “sacrifices every feeling of worldly advantage” to accepting Mr Collin’s marriage proposal for financial security and social elevation. Moreover, Weldon’s satirical comment juxtaposed the perceptions of marriage in the 18th century to that of the modern context, “the stuff in our women’s magazine, but it was the stuff of their life”. The elevation of gender roles in the modern context emphasises the adversities women faced in Austen’s world, and this is achieved through the contrast of character foils Elizabeth and Charlotte.
In essence, Weldon positions the audience to gain an appreciation for the transformation of gender roles in changing contexts, empowering women to become great contributors to society. Weldon’s hybridity employs Aunt Faye as a mouthpiece to examine the institutions of Literature in “P+P” and “LTA”. The emphasis of Literature’s value in society is evident in the hyperbole “very essence of civilisation”. According to Weldon’s didacticism, Literature should not be deemed as “just books”, as it embodies complex and dynamic concepts of the human condition. In essence, Weldon refers to Literature with a “capital L” and books by the sophistication of their characters, whose struggles in their fictional lives resonate to our own. Moreover, the use of imperatives “you must read Alice, before it is too late” reinforces Weldon’s didactic purpose of Literature catalysing self-actualisation. Comparably, an accomplished Georgian woman “has a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing and dancing”.
Austen however satirises this limited perception of “good education” as it is “ineffectual” to foster independence and intelligence in women. Lady Catherine’s patronising tone in addressing Elizabeth as an “unfeeling, selfish girl” demonstrates her lack of moral education despite her aristocratic stature. It is Elizabeth however, who epitomises “good education” with her wit and independence, thus undergoing self-awakening, “til this moment I never knew myself”. In contrast, Weldon employs the extended metaphor of the “City of Invention” to promote connections, where writers can “cohabit and collaborate” with their “Houses of Imagination”. Moreover, our “carvings” on the “Rock of Eternity” symbolises our shared experiences and values, linking the past, present and future together. Thus, Weldon invites the audience to reach out to posterity, much like Austen through her canonical Literature. The “City” also enables connections between reader and writer, for us to “understand ourselves and each other”, thus gaining empathy through Literature.
Weldon’s re-examination of “P+P” showcases the fundamental values predominant in classic texts, thus transcending their era of composition, and emphasising the importance of Literature in catalysing one’s sense of spiritual awakening. The underlying value prevalent in both texts of social stratification is enhanced by the contextualisation of fundamental values in both texts. Austen asserts the stability and order enforced through conformity to rigid social class structures, and family being a primary factor to determining one’s social standing, and consequently one’s chance of marriage.
This is evident in Lady Catherine’s caricature, as she forewarns of the detriments of an individual’s subversion of the social class system, “you’ll be slighted and despised… your alliance will be a disgrace”. Simultaneously, Austen introduces the unorthodox union of Darcy and Elizabeth to challenge the social class system because their relationship is founded on mutual respect and compatibility, thus invoking a positive change in the rigid social structure. Weldon accounts for Darcy’s decision “to marry where he loved, and not where he ought”, as Elizabeth “brought neither land nor money – but she brought vigour, intelligence and honesty”. In essence, Austen exposes the superficiality of the institutions of social stratification, and emphasises the importance of personal integrity overriding social morality.
Shakespeare’s adaptation of Plutarch’s histories “Julius Caesar” utilises tragic form to exhibit the subjective nature of conflicting perspectives. Moreover, the linguistic techniques elicited through the power play of orations subvert the audience’s views of personalities, events and situations. Shakespeare presents multitude perspectives to explore the power vacuum and political machinations prevalent in Elizabethan England. In essence, the audience is positioned to accept the ambiguity of conflicting perspectives, through Shakespeare’s exploration of the volatility and temporary nature of power, political imperatives and the validity of truth. Similarly, Buttrose’s feature article “Et tu Julia” employs “Julius Caesar” as a historical framework to explore the dynamics of politics and represent the subjectivity of conflicting perspectives.
Thereby, Buttrose grapples with the tension between the drive for altruistic and political imperatives, thus leading to the audience’s questioning of Gillard’s legitimacy as PM. Shakespeare’s construction of conflicting portraitures forewarns of the dangers of political machination superseding one’s capacity for objectivity and “truth”. Mirroring the political machinations of Elizabethan England, Shakespeare explores the dynamics of political imperatives at the expense of Brutus’ honour. Caesar’s deification “as constant as the northern star” and repetition of third person accentuates his hubris, through the establishment of the artificial distance between himself and his mortality.
Through various representations, Shakespeare illuminates the fallacy inherent in Caesar’s noble character, leading to his tragic demise, thus revealing the fragility of power. The audience is able to recognise Caesar’s vulnerability through the act of political machination of Cassius compelling Brutus to conspire against Caesar, “as crowned, how that might change his nature”. Shakespeare’s juxtaposition of Caesar’s thrasonical assertions opposed to Cassius’ anecdotes of Caesar’s fragility “help me Cassius, or I sink” generates polarised perspectives of Caesar’s personality. Moreover, the combination of the extended metaphor “ambition’s ladder’ and the biblical allusion of “serpent’s egg… if hatch’d would grow mischievous”, leads to the audience’s questioning of Caesar’s ambition. Ultimately, this robs Brutus of his foresight, compelling him to extricate the satanic creature to prevent a potentially despotic reign, ironically defying the natural order. Essentially, Shakespeare explores the dynamics of political machinations overriding one’s noble perspective, thus stimulating conflicting ideologies in questions of “truth”.
Simultaneously, Buttrose’s intertextuality “Et tu Julia” examines the justification of Gillard’s political machinations and the speculation of her credibility of her political machination. The condition clause “we have to see whether Julia Caesar is a reforming republican or imperial stooge” historically alludes to Caesar’s assassination, raising questions of ethics in the conspiracy. Buttrose mirrors Shakespeare’s criticism of the conspiracy, evident in the hyperbole “the political murder of Kevin Rudd” coupled with the violent imagery, “the coup came, the plotters bludgeoned”. Essentially, the Labour party is represented as despotic and immoral, leading to the audience’s questioning of Rudd’s dismissal and Gillard’s instatement, thus generating a greater degree of empathy for the fallen PM.
Moreover, his support for Rudd is further accentuated through the use of idiosyncratic Australian colloquialism “[Rudd] wanted to buy back the farms from mining interests”, elevating his political stature through emphasising his altruistic imperatives for public good. Mirroring Antony’s assertions of Caesar’s benevolence, Buttrose similarly presents an anecdote of Rudd’s claims to “improve health services, education and housing”. Comparably, Buttrose represents a polarised perspective of Gillard’s legitimacy for her acts of political machination for the welfare of the Labour party. This is evident in denigrating Rudd’s credibility as PM through the slogan “Rudd the Dud… not to be trusted” coupled with the polling statistics “losing electoral appeal” and “Liberal party lead of 9%”. Essentially reinforcing Gillard’s credibility as leader, the political jargon appeals to the audience’s logos, positioning them to accept the act of Rudd’s dismissal as a necessity for the Labour party. In essence, Buttrose represents the subjectivity of conflicting perspectives conditioned in the dynamics of politics.
Shakespeare challenges the audience to postulate on the existence of truth through illuminating the power of rhetoric to influence meaning within different representations of perspectives. Political machinations are explored in Brutus and Antony’s orations, epitomising conflicting perspectives to the climax of Caesar’s assassination in Act 3. Brutus’ antithesis “not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” appeals to the Plebians’ patriotism, and the disjunction “but” enables the audience to recognise Brutus’ moral sacrifice for the betterment of Rome. This is further accentuated through the anacoenosis “have Caesar live and die all slaves, than Caesar die to live all free men?” coupled with the strong affirmation “Caesar was ambition, so I slew him”, appealing to the audience’s logos, thus positioning to accept the necessity of Caesar’s assassination.
Brutus instils fear of Caesar’s inherent tyranny in the Plebians through the diction of “slave”. Comparably, Shakespeare presents an alternative perspective of Caesar’s personality through Antony’s oration. Antony exploits the power of rhetoric through the condition clauses, “if Caesar was ambitious” to question the validity of Brutus’ claims. This is further negated through the recollection of memories “he thrice refused [the crown]”, leading the audience to question their personal truths in determining the credibility of Brutus’ justification of his political imperatives. Fundamentally, Shakespeare exploits the power of representations through the power of rhetoric to manipulate “truths”, thus leading to conflicting ideologies.