The Principles of the Reputation in A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen and Daisy Miller by Henry James

Categories: Daisy Miller

In both A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen and Daisy Miller by Henry James, themes of reputation and tradition are prevalent. The influence of society on women is examined in order to highlight not only the double standards placed upon the two main characters, Nora and Daisy, but also the consequences of their rebellious behavior. From Nora abandoning her household and having to start anew, to Daisy falling ill and dying, both tragic heroes suffer for standing up for what they believe in.

Victorian era gender roles are displayed throughout the entire play of A Doll’s House, with the household being the main setting and the wife never leaving it, while the husband is constantly in and out, interacting with the real world. Hence the name, Nora is constantly controlled like a doll, by her patronizing husband, Torvald. Taking on a feminist lens, this work explores the societal pressures women faced during this time period. It also discusses the unhealthy physical confinement of being trapped in the house, along with the mental confinement of having no say in life matters.

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Throughout the play, Ibsen “represents a woman imbued with the idea of becoming a person, but it proposes nothing categorial about women becoming people,” (Templeton). This critical quote speaks volumes regarding the ‘progress’ of ‘the second sex’ from the beginning to the end of the play. It is evident that Nora is unhappy, and dreams of a better life for herself, while women as a whole are still confined to the traditional Victorian era gender roles.

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Daisy Miller, although perceived differently, was “a defiant, passionate, perfectly observant consciousness of the impression she produced,” (James 135). Throughout the entire novella, she was very versed in her actions, and knew exactly what she wanted for the people in her life and for herself. Unfortunately, she was put in a bad light because of her ‘American values’ and her actions of not fitting in with the traditional European customs. Her reputation was tinged by those around her, but she did not let that impact her personal outlook on life. James’ satirical approach with this work, emphasizes the “psychological implications of a society characterized by sharply divided social classes remains pertinent in our own time,” (Smith).

Confronting Nora about her crime, Torvald says, “but no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves,” (Ibsen 80) emphasizing just how precious reputation and appearance is to Torvald. This hurtful quote from Torvald to Nora confirms his true beliefs and exposes his selfishness. With this, he reveals his betrayal to Nora, and this pushes her even further to finally leave. Nora now must face the reality that she needs to heal by herself and begin a life of her own. Similarly, Daisy Miller’s “mystifying manners” (James 143) lead to her consequential outcasting in European society and ultimate demise. “James expertly delivers his message about the futility of being someone that one is not,” (Smith) in order to fully display the cruel, and sometimes fatal, effects that society can have on someone. Nora Helmer and Daisy Miller both seem to be in a predicament that boils down to allowing society to control them, or being free and truly happy with who they are. In A Doll’s House, Nora must decide to continue living a restricted life or break-free from society and her demeaning husband. Likewise, Daisy is conflicted with being frowned upon by European society due to her American values or succumb to the traditional customs enforced on her in Geneva and Rome. In both A Doll’s House and Daisy Miller, the tragic heroes choose to do what they personally believe will better themselves and ignore society. As a result, both suffered a downfall, but in a sense, became a new person. Nora began her new life, while Daisy returned to innocence.

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The Principles of the Reputation in A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen and Daisy Miller by Henry James. (2022, Feb 06). Retrieved from

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