Q. Compare and contrast the plays HALFWAY HOUSE by Mohan Rakesh and DOLL’s HOUSE by Henrik Ibsen.
“A sort of frost seems to have descended on the souls of the human agents…Every confrontation – and the play is a series of confrontations – instead of thawing the ice, leaves it a bigger iceberg” -R.L. Nigam on Halfway House
Critically and commercially acclaimed, Halfway House is a mainstream modern play written by Mohan Rakesh in the year 1969. Mohan Rakesh has contributed significantly in building up the post-independence Hindi literature.In fact, he is known for creating a revolution in dialogue-writing in Hindi drama. Halfway House is a good example of a social play, creating a scenario of a typical modern Indian family (in 1950’s). This play was written during the time when India was coming to terms with the idea of a modern family. Critics perceived Halfway House purely as a commercial and apolitical play.
The play mainly deals with the theme of social alienation and how indifference between the family members keeps on increasing, but also touches upon existentialism, utilitarianism , feminism, man-woman relationship, modern sensibility, gender stereotypes, absurdist element, conventional and traditional ideas of a family created by the society and effect of modern ideologies on families.
“A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.” -Henrik Ibsen
Doll’s House is a realistic social drama by Ibsen , written in 1879, portraying a stereotypical submissive wife struggling to break free. Through this play, Ibsen showcases the idea that “women suffer an inevitable violation of their personalities within the context of marriage.” In this play, and even in other plays by Ibsen like “The League of Youth” and “The Lady from the Sea” the society is increasingly seen as a force insidiously hostile to self-fulfillment.
The play deals with idealism of the role of a woman in the society and her family, naturalism, feminism, man-woman relationship, gender stereotypes, existentialism, naturalism, modern sensibility and women’s independence.
“Most of my stories are about people living through the torture of relationships in their loneliness. The attempt is not to see the individual and society as mutually opposed and mutually exclusive, and separated from each other, but rather, to see them as related in such fashion that the individual reflects the dilemmas of the society, and the society reflects the torture of the individual” -
The play Halfway House starts off with the description of a “disorderly living room in what was once a fairly well to do middle class home.” The furniture is broken, having lost its proper function,adding to the over-crowded effect of the room. All the description gives a very disoriented and distorted image of the place where the play starts off. It is quite evident that there exists no feeling of comfort or warmth, that normally ought to exist in a “home”. Too much of chaos can be visualized and the degradation of the economic status of the family has already been mentioned (this has played a huge part in the disintegration of the family ties). Another observation that can be made from the setting itself is that there is too much of adjustment in the house, and nothing seems to be in its proper place implying that nobody actually cares . Members of the family are least bothered about how their house is arranged, and they just let things be. If one looks at the settings carefully, one can decipher that the setup is not only shown to describe the physical disorientation but also somewhere points towards the mental instability of all the members in the house. It points towards the lack of mental peace each member faces in the entire course of the play.
“A man in a black suit” opens the play describing...
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