Everyone if faced with making decisions in their life. In the Awakening by Kate Chopin, and A Doll’s house, by Henrick Ibsen, it is evident to the reader that the decisions made by the two characters, Edna and Nora, are made by the way they view themselves. More or less by the end of each story self perception is what leads both protagonist characters to make a life changing or even life ending decision.
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Throughout the story Edna takes many risks. While at grand Isle, she risks the dangers of the sea so that she might learn to swim. Furthermore, Edna risks impropriety by spending so much time alone with Robert. Upon returning home, Edna continues to be the risk taker. One must ask himself, however, what exactly is Edna risking with her, at times, juvenile behavior? In truth, she is risking nothing more than humiliation. Edna knows that her husband will never leave her nor will he allow her to leave him.
While Edna may be considered a risk taker, it is easy to see that the risk Nora, in A Doll’s House takes far greater risks. While it is clear that Nora’s husband does not see her as a person with a mind for anything beyond decoration, the reader quickly sees that Nora knows far more than maybe she should know. Torvald constantly shows his superiority over his wife with the use of “pet” names such as: “my little dove” or “chipmunk.” Torvald views Nora as one might view a pet, cute and fun to play with as long as she’s obedient.
Just as Edna in The Awakening, Nora is a risk taker. In the beginning, the reader sees a juvenile rebellion on Nora’s part. However, the reader laughs along with Nora as she enjoys the forbidden macaroon. This rebellious secret of Nora’s proves to be just the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg itself comes in the form of Kronstad, a banker. The reader learns of Nora’s secret shortly after his appearance. It appears that Nora has borrowed money in her father’s name that Torvald is not aware of. At the time this story is set, it is unheard of that women should handle any money in this manner without her husband’s knowledge. What is Nora risking in keeping his to herself? In essence, she is risking everything: her family’s financial security, her security, and imprisonment.
Also like Edna, Nora is not the mother-type. Nora treats her children as Torvald treat her–as playthings. Nora is on the outside very flighty and unconventional, and on the inside she is thrilled at what she thinks of as the successful deception of her husband Torvald. Clearly that which she views as a success now, will later be viewed as a failure. The difference being with Edna and Nora, is that Nora doesn’t want or need her husband’s forgiveness.
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While the female protagonists in Chopin’s The Awakening and Isben’s A Doll’s House share many similarities of situation, it is the image of self that sets them apart. Both Edna and Nora prove throughout their respective stories to be risk takers. It is Nora who in the end takes the ultimate risk–the risk to live alone. Edna, however, in the end remains trapped by society and her circumstance. Rather than spend the rest of her life in that trap she chooses death. Death has many meanings, of which Chopin and Isben have explored two. Chopin chooses an irony filled death for Edna. Edna’s death is ironic in that the ocean, a tool for her awakening, becomes the tool of her death. In Isben’s story, while Nora’s death is not literal, it is a death to all that she has known thus far. Given the choices that each character has made leads one to believe that Nora’s death was ultimately a far more painful death than that of Edna.
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