Misguided Messages in The Awakening and A Doll’s House

Misguided Messages in The Awakening and A Doll’s House

 

        Just because a novel is considered a classic doesn’t mean the

Messages it conveys to its readers are correct.  Even though both The

Awakening by Kate Chopin and A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen are great

literary works, some of the ideas embodied in them aren’t appropriate.

Both works suggest that it is common for husbands to be condescending to

their wives; that if a person has enough money, they can have someone else

raise their children for them; and that if a marriage gets hard, the couple

should just give up on each other.

 

        Taking the stories for their literary qualities alone, they are

both quite good.  Both novels are very well written.  Chopin and Ibsen

developed their characters well, used excellent imagery, and told

interesting stories.  Both shared their strong convictions even though they

knew their ideas weren’t popular.  The strong beliefs that are shared in

these stories are part of what makes them classics.

 

        However, some of the ideas that are portrayed in these works aren’t

ideas readers should assume to be true or good.  The first of these is the

theory that husbands will most likely treat their wives as inferiors after

they are married.  In A Doll’s House, Torvald is blatantly condescending to

Nora.  He calls her his ³little squirrel² or ³little skylark² and requires

her to ³do tricks² to please him.  In addition, he treats her like a child,

a ³feather head² who can’t understand anything important.  In The Awakening,

Leonce is more subtle in his mistreatment of his wife.  He tries to control

Edna by pushing his point until she does what he wants.  He also tries to

make her feel bad about herself.  For example, he tells her she isn’t a

good mother to their sons.  Although this type of behavior is condemned in

both of these stories, just characterizing this behavior as normal sends a

bad message.  If young men are repeatedly told that this is how adult males

act, they will inevitably feel that they should act this way when they are

married.

 

        The second bad idea conveyed by these stories is that if a person

can afford to, they should have someone else raise their children for them.

In A Doll’s House, Nora and Torvald have a nanny who takes care of their

children for them.  This is the same nanny who Nora’s parents had paid to

raise her.  Also, in The Awakening, Leonce and Edna not only have a person

who takes care of their children for them; but, when Edna moves to the

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