Write about the ways writers use marital status in ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen and ‘A Woman of No Importance’ by Oscar Wilde.
Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ has many key themes such as reputation and status in society, women’s rights and money and security. These themes add key elements to the play which help develop the narrative. Similarly Wilde focuses on these in ‘A Woman of No Importance’.
In both plays, the women openly voice their opinions, sometimes not thinking of how this could affect other characters. In ‘A Woman of No Importance’, Lady Caroline constantly voices her opinions, not caring who hears or what effect it could have on the other characters. Lady Caroline uses her status, gender and marital reputation to allow her to get away with some of the exaggerated and inappropriate comments she says. ‘Mrs. Allonby is very well born … It is said, of course, that she ran away twice before she was married …I myself don’t believe she ran away more than once.’ – Lady Caroline, Act I Lady Caroline has no regard to the fact that she is giving Mrs. Allonby a bad reputation by revealing her scandalous past to Hester. As an aristocrat, she believes it is her right to be able to say and do as she pleases, but she does this in a way that shows her to be of a very sweet, well meant nature to the other characters in the play. The audience are aware that she gossips to anyone who will listen, again adding to the stereotype of the upper classes.
In ‘A Doll’s House’, Nora also voices her opinions openly, without consideration of who she is offending. ‘Completely alone. That must be awful. I’ve got three beautiful children.’ She is inconsiderate of the fact that Mrs Linde has no family and nothing to live on, and she appears to be self-centred. Ibsen may have chosen to depict Nora in this way to show her naivety and selfishness; Nora is spoilt which reflects in her behaviour. However, because Nora is spoilt and protected by Helmer, her status in society stays strongly in place.
In both plays, the women have certain roles they fulfil, which is true to the society in which they live in. Nora is the home maker and a caring mother, Mrs Arbuthnot is also a caring mother, trying to protect her son from the harsh reality of his true place in society. However, events occurring in the play affect the women’s statuses, causing them to be viewed differently, revealing social prejudices against women’s marital roles. Nora leaves her husband at the end of the play which, during the Victorian era, was rarely heard of and meant harsh circumstances were forced on these women. Nora would have been shamed, revealing social values for women during the Victorian era. Mrs Arbuthnot is revealed to be a ‘fallen woman’ to her son and she refuses to change her views on Lord Illingworth and declines his offer to marry him. She rejects the shame that would have been cast on her, symbolising the courage she has, similar to the courage Nora has, against the prejudices of societies view on women’s marital roles.
In both plays, men’s actions affect women’s status in society, showing the power of men in society and their power over the women in the plays.
In ‘A Doll’s House’, Krogstad blackmails Nora, forcing her to tell her husband, Torvald, that she has borrowed money; this was frowned upon during the Victorian era. Men were the bread winners and the women looked after the home and the children. The two occupations shouldn’t be mixed. ‘I’ve a letter here for your husband.’
‘Telling him everything?’
‘As objectively as possible.’ – Nora and Krogstad, act II This shows the power Krogstad has over Nora, reflecting the power men had over women during that era. In ‘A Woman of No Importance’, Lord Illingworth is the reason Mrs Arbuthnot is a fallen woman. He promised to marry her and took her purity in her father’s garden. This shows the authority Lord Illingworth had over Mrs Arbuthnot; she was prepared to lose her purity to a man she was...
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