Essay on Women in A Doll's House and Tess of the D'Urbervilles


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A Doll's House and Tess of the D'Urbervilles


During the late nineteenth century, women were beginning to break out from the usual molds. Two authors from that time period wrote two separate but very similar pieces of literature. Henrik Ibsen wrote the play A Doll's House, and Thomas Hardy wrote Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Ibsen and Hardy both use the male characters to contrast with their female counterparts to illustrate how women are stronger by following their hearts instead of their minds.

Ibsen uses Torvald, to depict a world where men choose to follow their minds in place of their hearts. Ibsen has Torvald believe that he is truly in love with his wife Nora. Torvald believes he will "risk my life's blood, and everything, for your sake."(63) The author sets the reader up to believe that Torvald is a chivalrous guy who would give life and limb to defend his true love, as the author believes that any real man would. Later in the play, a circumstance arises where he is given the opportunity to defend his wife. He does a 180 degree turn around and explains to his wife that "no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves."(71) The author shows the stupidity of Torvald with his misconception of honor. In actuality when a man sacrifices himself for the one he loves it brings him honor. Torvald is viewed as a true hypocrite. Torvald also believes the most important thing is to "save the . . . appearance."(65)

He follows his mind, only interested in what is best for society. Ibsen illustrates him as a truly weak human. In contrast to Ibsen, Hardy takes an intellectually free thinker, Angel, who shows a very close minded perspective on events instead of opening himself to his true inner feelings. When Angel's bride reveals to him that she has committed the sin of pre-marital sex as did Angel, he begins to reveal to the reader his ignorance. In her sin, "forgiveness does not apply."(244) Angel's double standard shows the reader that sexism even existed in the free thinkers of the time period like Angel. He believed that his wife's sin was not "a question of respectability, but one of principle."(257) Hardy mocks Angel because he ironically believes himself free from the church, but in actuality his mind is a prisoner to their principles.

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Angel "overlooked what [Tess] was, and forgot the defective can be more than the entire."(282) Angel forgets that he still loves Tess because he has become a slave to his thoughts and ideas. Hardy suggests that when man follows his mind, it leads him astray, but when following his heart he will never miss the path to happiness and fulfillment. Both Ibsen and Hardy portray a time period where men follow their minds and society, their heart is solely for the pumping of blood, and their word is only as good as far as you can throw it.


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