“In literature the role of mothers, in family life, is to be seen and not heard”
Compare and contrast the presentation of the dominant male and his impact upon family life in A Doll’s House & Purple Hibiscus.
A Doll's House, by Henrik Ibsen and Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, are two texts that although appear to contrast contextually, have many similarities conceptually. Both texts focus heavily on familial relationships and how more often than not, these are not as they appear. Both A Doll's House and Purple Hibiscus feature wealthy families who care greatly about how they are viewed by society. The mothers in both of the texts, Nora in A Doll's House and Mama (Beatrice) in Purple Hibiscus, are presented as possessions owned by their husbands, rather than as individuals and Ibsen and Adichie present their maternal roles as archetypal of their respective times. The authors also focus on the role of the dominant male in both novels, these are Torvald in A Doll's House and Papa (Eugene) in Purple Hibiscus. Ibsen and Adichie show the different ways in which dominance can be portrayed and the similar impact it can have on family life.
The women in both A Doll's House and Purple Hibiscus appear to have very similar roles, that are in line with the societal standards of the time. In the play A Doll's House, Ibsen presents his protagonist Nora as very compliant and submissive, with her happiness being closely linked to futile tasks. The play opens with Nora leading a porter carrying a Christmas tree inside whilst "humming contentedly to herself". Through his lexical choice of the word "contentedly" Ibsen presents the joy that Nora receives from doing even the most menial jobs. As Nora finds purpose in something as frivolous as buying a Christmas tree, Ibsen suggests that she is not given much responsibility in others areas of family life. As A Doll's House is set in Norway in the 1870's, modern readers may pity Nora for being so 'content' with little to no real influence in her family life, however, Ibsen in many ways epitomises her as a perfect Norwegian bourgeois wife. Throughout the play Nora appears as a child or possession of Torvald rather than an equal partner. In scene three, Torvald tells Nora that he has "broad wings to shelter (her) under" and that he will protect her like "a hunted dove that (he has) saved from a hawk's claws". This highlights the unequal power dynamic that exists between Torvald and Nora, as not only does Torvald view Nora as weak and unable to protect herself, but he believes it is his obligation to protect her. In doing this Ibsen employs irony, as by the play's ending Torvald becomes much like a predator that Nora seeks to escape from. Although Nora is presented as a quintessential mother, Ibsen distances her from her children throughout the play. The children are looked after by Anne-Marie, a nanny and only appear when it's time to play. In her brief interaction with her children Nora enj...