Tag Archives: mthomas14

Ibsen’s use of structure to present themes in “A Doll’s House”

16 Sep

In A Doll’s House, Ibsen does not follow the conventional plot structure of story/play. Normally a story/play has an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and then resolution. The conflict has been solved and everybody lives happily ever after in the end. Instead, Ibsen uses a three act play, which splits up into an “exposition/rising action” in the first act, a “situation” in the second act, and then a “discussion” in the third act, as suggested by George Bernard Shaw, an essayist who analyzed the play.

In the “discussion”, Nora exits the play, leaving Torvald and the life she had behind. This certainty isn’t your regular resolution, as things are still out of balance and left hanging out there (i.e. there isn’t a “Happily Ever After”). The audience is left questioning why she did this and “Was it the right thing to do?”. The answer that they come up with is open to difference in perspective. They then begin relating these questions to the theme representing it: “Femininity is derived from upholding society’s expectations”. Well, in the contemporary society at the time of the play’s introduction, women were expected to stay with and love their husbands and children, and not leave them just because of the pursuit of self-actualisation. The fact that Nora left her life to pursue self-actualisation certainly raised some eyebrows among audience members, and more questions like those above begin to arise. Audience members then begin thinking about the other thematic ideas (and the questions they come with)  that are present throughout the play, but become most noticeable in the “discussion”. For example, “Marriage does not necessarily mean true love” and “Money brings out the true nature in people” are two recurring themes throughout the play, but become explicit in the “discussion” as well, so audience members begin thinking about these.

To emphasize the above idea that themes, which appear throughout the play, become more distinguished/explicit in the “discussion” of the play, an example will be used. In the “discussion”, we see that Ms. Linde and Krogstad want to have a relationship, not because they love each other but instead because they need each other. The audience begins thinking, “Hang on. How can you have a relationship like that and not have love at the foundation?” They then begin questioning about the thematic idea that  “Marriage does not necessarily mean true love”. In the case of Krogstad and Ms. Linde, they realize that no, a marriage relationship does not need to be built off of true love. Also, in the case of Torvald and Nora, we see that there relationship was built off of blind love, as they only thought they loved each other, and they stayed together because society expected them to.

As stated above, once one theme is being discussed, subsequently all other themes that appear in the play, but become most prominent in the “discussion”, become of concern to the audience and they begin discussing these as well. For example, another theme that the play features is “Masculinity is derived from upholding society’s expectations”. The audience can see this theme throughout the play, but it becomes of special concern when Torvald reads Krogstad’s blackmail letter, and does not keep his head high, as Nora hoped. Instead, he immediately worries about his reputation at the bank and among his friends, as he now feels trapped in Krogstad’s claws. The audience can see that Torvald cares most about his reputation in society; more than he cares about his wife or anything else. It can then be deduced that reputation and respect define the how much of a man someone is in this society that the play is set in. This idea can also be seen in Krogstad. Since he “slipped up” and lost his reputation and the respect of many of his peers, he feels he has lost what makes him a man. Men at the contemporary time of the play’s debut are expected to be respected and hold a positive reputation among other members of society.

Other themes include “The home is a place of comfort, deceit, and truth” and “ Respect and reputation are the main priorities in a man’s life”.

Naturalism is a technique used by authors/playwrights. and features in “A Doll’s House”. Essentially, the characters and setting and every other aspect in the play must be as real as possible, if not more. There should seemingly be no script, and the story should basically be like looking through a microscope looking at real people acting in the natural ways they do.

Characters in A Doll’s House: Positives and Negatives

3 Sep

Nora, one of the key characters in the play, A Doll’s House, is continuously portrayed differently throughout the plot. In some scenes she is portrayed in positive manner, with a good-nature and high morals, while in others she is portrayed negatively, by her acting childish and naive and when she doesn’t consider the consequences of her actions. And still, there are certain points in the plot where she is portrayed as in-between positive and negative, such as when she initially does something negative for the greater good.

Throughout the storyline, Nora is sometimes portrayed in a positive way. An example of this is when she is shown trying to be a good mother. When her children come inside from sledging one evening, she is instantly enthusiastic about hearing about their adventures. After this, she suggests that they play a game of hide-and-seek, which is shortly interrupted by Mr. Krogstad. It can be easily be seen that Nora is also caring towards her children, as well as protective and reassuring. When Mr. Krogstad requests to talk to Nora alone, she asks the children to go into the other room with the maid Anne-Marie. The children are initially frightened and ask their mother whether the man will harm her or not. She immediately reassures them by saying no and tells them that they will play another game once she has finished her business with Mr. Krogstad.

Another positive trait we see in Nora is that she has a considerate, kind, and caring nature. Along with seeing this trait come out in her when she is around her children, it can also be seen when she wants to grant Ms. Linde her favour. She wanted Nora to see if Torvald would be able to employ her at the bank, and Nora, without hesitation, said “Leave it to me. I’ll see to it. I’ll find a way. Put him in a good mood. I’d love to help you,” (19). The first chance she got, she brought up the matter to Torvald, and he was interested.

Towards the end of the play, we see Nora transform from a childish, naive character into a mature woman who has unclasped herself from the control of the society that she lives in. She realizes that she no longer wants to be influenced by the social and economic pressures around her, and wants to discover her full potential as someone on her own (she wants to commit to self-actualization). Her own father treated her like a dolly, and when she married Torvald, he treated her exactly the same. This sort of relationship between father and daughter, and between husband and wife, was accepted during the play’s setting. When Nora was a young girl, she said that she viewed everything the way her father did, and if she didn’t, she didn’t dare say anything as it would upset her father. She was “controlled” by him, in the way a child controls the life of their dolls. Torvald resumed this relationship with Nora when they married, as she said that everything was organised to suit to his tastes and preferences. This is the same idea as a child would decorate their doll house to their likening and dress their dolls the way they preferred. After Torvald turns out not to be the man Nora thought he was, after he initially succumbed to thought that Krogstad would be able to control him (due to the debt to him and the false signature), she began to realize this type of relationship they had, how she was “controlled” by him. In order to fix everything, she decided she must leave her family and begin her process of self-actualization.

Nora is also portrayed in a negative manner as well throughout the plot. A primary example of this is that Nora is somewhat extravagant and is keen on spending money. In the beginning of the play we see that Nora has bought, all in one day, Christmas presents for the children, macaroons for herself, and is next trying to get Torvald to spend a little more this year, instead of saving, saving, saving. A good example of this is, “Can’t we just burn a little? A tiny little? Now you’re getting such a big pay-packet, pennies and pennies and pennies,” (10).

A second negative trait we see in Nora is the fact that she is naive and slightly spoiled. She also seems to not really care about serious matters in the beginning of the novel, and is short-sighted. An example of this is when she tells Torvald that they should just borrow money until the New Year, instead of saving. Torvald comes up with the worst-case scenario if they did borrow, which was him dying in a freak accident before the New Year, and Nora being stuck to pay off the debt. Nora says that she does no care if she still owed people money, and doesn’t care about the people who she would owe money too.

Another negative trait we see in Nora is that she is childish and immature. This occurs mainly when she is talking about money, but also we see this in her due to her sweet-tooth for macaroons. At one point in the first act, Nora sulks because she has no money to spend, and Torvald is reluctant to give her any. Despite this, Torvald gives in and provides her with some pennies to spend. Nora is ecstatic to receive the forty pennies, as if she were a young girl again. The macaroons appear infrequently throughout the opening act, where we see Nora hide them from Torvald, and where she offers them to Dr. Rank and Ms. Linde. Torvald has put a ban on sweets in the house (where Nora is the biggest offender), as if Nora is a child and cannot control her habits.

Nora is also notorious for not censoring what she says, especially when speaking to Ms. Linde. She basically blurts out anything, without considering the consequences of her actions. When speaking to Ms. Linde, she has no hesitation in telling her that she borrowed the money in order to pay for the vacation, instead of inheriting the funds from her father. Her not considering the consequences of her actions is another major negative attribute, as it has gotten her into a lot of trouble with Mr. Krogstad and Torvald towards the end.

Several in-between traits also appear in Nora, such as that she did certain negative actions for the greater good that they came with. A major example of this is when Nora lied to Torvald about where the funds for the vacation came from, in order to save his life (via the vacation). The lie was a negative action, which later came with consequences, but she did not think about these at the time. She was instead thinking of Torvald and how this vacation would make him better through some R and R. Another trait she has, which falls into the “caring and considerate” category, is that she was willing to grant a favour, even if it was impossible to meet. Nora did not know if she could talk Torvald into giving Mr. Linde a job at the bank, but assured her anyways that she would be able to.

Analysing the effect of having many details about Ibo culture in Part 1 of TFA

3 May

Throughout part 1 of the novel Things Fall Apart, we notice that Achebe has described several different details about Ibo culture and society, through the plot and the actions of the characters. He tells us about the Ibo traditions, their lifestyles, their laws, etc. But why has he done this? The key reason is to teach his audience that the Ibo have a strong, rich, beautiful culture. When the colonists arrived in the Ibo-occupied regions of Nigeria in the late 1800s, they viewed the Ibo community in a completely different way to how Achebe describes them. This is because they were unfamiliar with them and their ways of life. The colonists had never seen people like the Ibo before, and because they were so accustomed to their western lifestyles, they tagged them as uncivilized and savage, based their own experiences. Achebe did not want only these views going around about his people/ancestors, because in his eyes they were untrue. So through TFA, he teaches us foreigners about the beauty of his people’s lives, and attempts to eradicate the biased views we initially had about them. This was due to us initially listening only to the views of the white European men.

By including so many different details about Ibo culture and society in the text, Things Fall Apart has several effects on the reader. The main effect is that the reader is now able to observe what the Ibo were like through the eyes of one of their own (Achebe), as well as from the views of foreigners (the colonists). They are able to see the beauty of the Ibo culture and society, not just the initial biased views about it from the colonists. Because of this, it gives the reader a more worldly view of them, as they are able to consider the views from both sides. As the plot goes on, this effect on the reader will be emphasized further, as well as many other effects emerging which were not initially noticed.

Descriptions of Ibo society in TFA chapters 1-3

29 Apr

In the first three chapters of the novel “Things Fall Apart”, the reader can identify several unique themes/aspects relating to the text. The most significant of these aspects is “the beauty and complexity of Nigerian/Ibo society”.   The Ibo community, which the main protagonist Okonkwo is a part of, is very different from the regular western community I am familiar to. Several of the differences between the two communities include the aspects of traditions, social structure, lifestyle, etc.

I’ll start off with traditions. One example of the difference in traditions is “the breaking of the kola nut”. This will happen during a range of events, from somebody stopping by for a casual conversation, to a great deal being made between two parties. The kola nut is something like gift, a gesture for the occasion. For example, if somebody is coming by another person’s house to make a deal with them, then either the host or the guest will provide the kola nut. It is then broken and eaten between the two people. The “breaking of the kola nut” is almost like a handshake, or a gift, in western society, but if member of the Ibo community saw westerners doing those things, they would definitely have the same reaction as us to seeing them break the kola: “what a strange activity”. Another tradition we are introduced to is the usage of proverbs in conversation. In Ibo society, “the art of conversation is regarded highly” (pg 6), and proverbs are used greatly in conversations to emphasize point being made. This is very different from western society, where we just simply converse with one another in everyday language, unless, for example, we are two scientists and need to discuss with one another a topic that requires complex vocabulary that we both know. A final tradition that strikes me is the taking of titles. Men in Ibo society are encouraged to take titles in their clan, as it makes them highly regarded and brings them honour. Men who do not take titles, like Okonkwo’s   father Unoka, are not respected as much as men with titles, and are sometimes considered inferior.

Onto the social structure of Ibo society, men are considered superior over women. The husband in a household always has control over the wife, or wives, and they must always follow the rules of the husband. This is shown greatly in Okonkwo’s household, where his three wives must always respect him and never show any signs of wanting increased power over him. Also, linking back to traditions, a man who has no titles is called an “agbala”, meaning either a man with no titles or a woman. This emphasizes the superiority men have over women, as it likens a man with no titles, and hence not as much respect, to a woman. Also, because Ibo men are polygamist, meaning they have the custom of acquiring more than one wife, their first wife has superiority over the others. This is shown at a “deal-making” event in the novel. As the palm-wine is opened, the wives of the host are invited to drink the wine first. But the first wife is obliged to drink before the others. This event also shows us that even though the wives are inferior to the husbands, the husbands do have respect for them.  Ibo social structure is very different from what I am used to, as I am Canadian. In western society, women and men have equal rights and both must respect one another. Also, polygamy is not accepted in western society at all, so that is a big difference as well.

Lastly the lifestyles of the Ibo people are very different from that of westerners. Most of the community spends their life as yam farmers, as they must grow food for themselves. Each family must clear a field in order to sow their seed-yams at the beginning of the rainy season, and then harvest the yams during the harvest season. Also, the most significant hobby that was noticed in the novel so far is the playing of an instrument in a band.  Common instruments described include drums (called the ekwe and udu) and flutes, as well as singing.

Relating TFA to the IB Language and Literature guide

22 Apr

Chosen statement from IB Language and Literature guide: Literary texts are not created in a vacuum but are influenced by social context, cultural heritage and historical change.

The novel “Things Fall Apart”, written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, was “not created in a vacuum”.  In the text, there are several things that have definitely influenced the setting, the characters and their behaviours, the plot, etc. Such aspects include, as stated in the chosen statement, social context, cultural heritage, and historical change.  For example, the demographic structure of the Ibo community in Okonkwo’s village was not just thought of out of thin air by Achebe himself. Instead, it was  based on that of the actual Ibo communities which existed (and still do) in Nigeria. The lifestyles and interests of each of the characters in TFA were also based on the cultural heritage of the Ibo people. The farming of yams, the breaking of kola, the taking of titles in the community, all of these activities are based on those of the actual native Nigerians. (not finished)