The idea of women's liberation is a common theme in both Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. In her analysis of Feminism in Europe Katharine M. Rogers writes, " Thinking of Nora's painful disillusionment, her parting from her children, and the uncertainties of her future independent career, Ibsen called his play 'the tragedy of modern times'" (82). The main characters in each work, Nora Helmer, in A Doll House, and Edna Pontellier, in The Awakening, portray feminist ideas.
Neither Ibsen nor Chopin intended to write for the women's right's movement, but both works are classics of a woman's liberation. Ibsen is quoted as saying "that he never 'consciously worked for the women's right movement'" (82). It has also been shown that "Chopin did not intend to write a feminist tract" (Martin 252). Even though neither work was meant to be used as a feminist advocacy document, the works are excellent examples of the fact that many people were attuned to the plight of women.
Nora and Edna both intend to pursue their own careers. At the time these works were written, women did not normally have their own careers. Nora enjoys the copying work she secretly does at night to earn back money for her loan. Working makes her feel less like the shallow, twittering female people think she is and more like an independent man. After Nora leaves Torvald, she wants to live on her own and support herself. Edna wants to become an artist. She tries to paint seriously every day after her return from Grand Isle. Even though Mr. Pontellier thinks her paintings are a silly hobby, Edna sells several paintings and hopes to sell more.
Nora and Edna are both i...
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...the works portray feminist ideas such as pursuit of careers, independence from families, and close male friends. Ibsen and Chopin were ahead of their time by writing works focusing on a topic that is still controversial a century later.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym et al. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1985.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House (1879). Trans. Rolf Fjelde. Rpt. in Michael Meyer, ed. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. 5th edition.
Boston & New York: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Martin, Wendy, ed. "Introduction." New Essays on The (Awakening. New York, NY: Cambridge UP, 1988.
Rogers, Katharine M. Feminism in Europe. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1982.
Templeton, Joan. "Is A Doll House a Feminist Text?" (1989). Rpt. In Meyer.
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