Ibsen vs. Tolstoy

Good Essays
Christina Block
Readings in the Humanities
Professor Tovey Van Aulen
March 23, 2010

Societal Influences in 19th Century Europe During the Victorian Era, living in the middle class, many people were strongly influenced by society, especially in Europe. People felt that they needed to look perfect in the public eye and everything they did had to be something that society would approve of, otherwise it was out of the question. Henrik Ibsen uses the main characters of Nora and Torvald, in his play, “A Doll’s House” just as Leo Tolstoy uses the main characters of Ivan and Praskovya, in his novel, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, to convey what it was like to live in a middle-class society in nineteenth century Europe. By showing that society
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Nora and Torvold had a nanny for the children, and Ivan and Praskovya had a butler and pantry boy who became very important to Ivan in the weeks of his life. Gender played an enormous role in shaping Nora, Torvald, Ivan, and Praskovya’s identities. Society had very clear views of what a man should be and what a woman should be. The men were to be the providers for the family, they had to have a respectable job and take care of all the family’s financial needs. The women were to stay at home and tend to her husbands and children’s needs, whatever they may be. Nora and Torvald were the perfect example of this. Nora stayed home with the children and the nanny and decorated the house and made everything comfortable for everyone while Torvold worked at the bank. When Nora took the loan out from the bank she had to hide it from everyone because that was a very disrespectful thing to do in society’s eyes at that time, which is why when Torvold found out he was infuriated. When Torvold realized that if anyone found out their reputation would be destroyed and everything he worked hard for would be gone because it would have seemed that they have stepped out of their gender roles and gone against society, he said to her, “Now you have destroyed all my happiness. You have ruined all my future.” (Ibsen 77).
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