Pressure to Conform in Miller’s Death of A Salesman and Ibsen’s A Doll House

Pressure to Conform in Miller’s Death of A Salesman and Ibsen’s A Doll House

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Pressure to conform to the societal norms of a culture can often be so weighty that those who balk against it are likely to be crushed. Usually the world wins in a very few cases though, the individual comes out the victor, beating the odds, a stronger human being as a result. In the case of Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, the world devours Willy Loman in his search for the American Dream. It broke him down and eventually destroyed him. Nora Helmer, of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House, was also consumed by the world, but after being broken, fought her way free and defeated society’s expectations of her. Both seek fulfillment in their lives, falsely finding it in society’s expectations; Nora discovers this dichotomy between what she should be and who she really is and sets out to amend the problem; Willy on the other hand, cannot handle the stress of facing his true self and flees.
Societal pressures urge Nora and Willy to mold themselves into the people they think they should be, ignoring their true selves. Nora grew up the plaything of her father and became the same to her husband, adopting their tastes and opinions as her own because society expected women to support the dominant males in their lives whole-heartedly (Ibsen 3.593-603). According to society, Nora’s duties lay within the home caring for her children and husband, not bothering herself with the matters of the world and its workings. This naïveté though, directly caused her to take out an illegal loan in her father’s name. Under the impression that her actions would be understood because they aimed only to save her husband’s life, Nora deludes herself into thinking that she still fits into the role society created for her. The moment Torvald discovers her lies, thoug...


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...opeless as Willy, it almost seemed the kind way to end the play, letting him live would have meant forcing him to suffer through the remainder of his life without the dreams of great American life that had driven him for so long.
Under pressure one of two things can happen, an object can compress and become indestructible and solid, or it can shatter into a million pieces never to be reunited. Nora solidifies under the pressure of society and becomes something more resilient, more determined, more stable. Whereas Willy shatters and blows away into the wind, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.


Works Cited
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Ed. W.B. Worthen. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007. 548-71. Print.
Miller, Arthur. Death of A Salesman. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Ed. W.B. Worthen. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007. 1066-98. Print.

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