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How Patriarchy Portrayed Medea And Dolls House

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1917 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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In the past females have been shown to be weak and submissive, they would obey their male counterparts and stay back to look after the children and the house. All decisions were made by the males and females had to stick by it without any exceptions. Females were also said to be irrational and not important. Patriarchy has been evident in many literary works over time ranging from ancient Greek plays to the plays of Ibsen. The long time compliance of the women towards the male dominant society has resulted in an outburst in the females which is shown effectively in the plays of Medea and A Doll’s House. Euripides in his play has used Medea as a representative of all women’s feelings, of pain, injustice that finally leads to rebellion and family breakdowns. Medea is created as an antithesis in a society of male dominance as Euripides has made her intelligent, decisive who dominates male characters and controls situations. In Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Nora is brought up to be a perfect daughter, wife and mother under the pressure of male dominant society. The title itself suggests that A Doll’s house that she is puppet with the strings in the hands of the men in her life, whether it is her husband, her father or even Krogstad.

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In A Doll’s house, right from the beginning we see that Helmer is the dominating male while Nora is the follower, ” Very well, just as you say, trovald.” [1] . When the audience sees Nora eat macaroons in secret and hide the packet and wipe the crumbs of her face, as Helmer does not wish it shows Helmer to be almost like a dictator who supervises Nora’s food habits as well as her speech. Nora is forbidden to use foul language inside the house, “I would simply love to say: Damn”! [2] and her desire to do so indicates her latent rebellion. Throughout the story Helmer addresses her using animal imagery “my singing bird” “my skylark” – weak birds kept in captivity and is made to sing on the tunes of its master. The usage of such animal imagery results in the magnification of the level of authority and extent of the commanding power which is possessed by Helmer over Nora.

” little songbirds must keep their pretty little beaks out of mischief; no chirping out of tune! ” [3] 

Torvald controls her dress as well as prescribes her social behavior, “Torvald wants me to go as a Neapolitan fisher-lass, and dance the Tarantella.” [4] Even the scene where we see helmer at the piano and Nora dancing is a classic example to show how Helmer makes her dance to his tunes. He questions Nora’s perception of power in their relationship and reminds her of the status quo, “Nice of you because you let your husband have his way?” [5] By all these incidences we see complete male dominance by helmer over nora.

Similarly in Medea by Euripides, we see male dominance, “Old ties give place to new ones. As for Jason, he no longer has a feeling for this house of ours.” [6] This shows us how the men in the society were considered to be superior and hence when Jason decides to re-marry, no one except the suppressed group of women object against this decision. Creon, the political patriarch, orders Medea dictatorially, “to leave my territories and exile, And take along with you your two children.” [7] 10 Medea is shown to be weak and powerless initially, “And poor Medea is slighted, and cries aloud on the vow they made to each other, the right hand clasped in eternal promise” [8] Medea’s moans and cries fit the patriarchal gender prescription of the emotionally unstable woman, this also portrays that without a husband a wife would not be able to survive in the society.

Male characters in both plays question the intelligence of the female protagonists. Krogstad typically underestimates Nora , ” either you haven’t a very good memory, or else you don’t understand much about business. I’d better make the position a little bit clearer for you.” [9] and shows how females were thought of by men and needed men to help them in understanding. This is also evident in Medea as Jason underestimates Medea’s reaction towards his betrayal, first by wanting her to accept this decision, “Do not consider painful what is good for you , / Nor when you are lucky, think yourself fortunate” [10] and then fails to comprehend her powers of deception which is the result of her outstanding intellect ironically praising her for her obedience when she is planning the murder of his new wife ” But now your mind has turned to better reasoning . In the end you have come the right decision clever woman that you are.” [11] pg 29

Women are not only portrayed as stupid but they also are morally corrupt as well, “Practically all juvenile delinquents come from houses where the mother is dishonest.” [12] Says Helmer. This shows us that how the men put the whole blame on the women society firstly rinsing themselves off responsibility and secondly this shows us that how women could be easily suppressed and accused by men. Jason generalizes all women to be irrational sexual beings operating at the level of basic instincts, “But you women have got into such a state of mind that, if your life at night is good, you think you have everything but , if in that quarter things go wrong, you will consider your best interest” [13] . Females are seen as a problem by Jason and also that if the women did not exist it would rid the world of all their problems, “and women not have existed. Then life would have been good.” [14] Females were not respected by the society and this debasement clearly indicates why Nora wants to be like a male figure and not a woman, ” I only wish I’d inherited a few more of daddy’s qualities.” [15] She has enjoyed the independence that she has experienced working and repaying the loan as it has identified her with the more powerful species, “it was almost like being a man” [16] . Krogstad black mailing Nora for a job in her husband’s bank and Nora not being able to do anything shows the male overpowers the female with ease.

To the end of the texts we see however that Nora and Medea become subversive towards the patriarchy, an emotional outburst is seen in both the characters and they resolve to change the situation. Medea in this conversation with Jason shows men to be weak ” And gold does more with men than words.” [17] pg 31 ,In particular Jason is whown to be self deluded as the gifts to Glauce help change her mind of not banishing her children and not Jason’s influence on her. This shows his incapability. Medea deceives King Creon and his daughter into death by poisoning the gifts she had sent for the royal house. King Creon has been shown to act very stupid and weak by not able to control his emotions on the death of his daughter which lead also leads to his death much like the behavior women would show, “and the unhappy man gave up the ghost, no longer could hold up head.” [18] Pg 39 Jason shows himself to be weak by begging Medea whom he once dominated to be able to see the dead bodies of his children, ” Let me, I beg you, Touch my boys delicate flesh.” [19] 

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Helmer who used to dominate Nora is also begging her too not to leave him, “I still have it in me to change” and “Couldn’t we go on living her elike brother and sister here..?” [20] . Nora is breaking through the patriarchy of the society and has made her own decision to live a independent life. She is tired of living life to the tunes of her husband, she is betraying her most sacred duty toher children and husband, Nora is no more concerned about her duties and wants to live life as per her wishes, ” If I’m ever to reach any understanding of myself and the things around me, I must learn to stand alone. That’s why I can’t stay here with you any longer.” [21] 

Nora rebels against all that helmer orders her to do and has made decisions even without informing him, “It’s no use forbidding me anything now. I’m taking with me my own personal belongings. I don’t want anything of yours, either now or later.” [22] . Nora is subverting and rebelling against patriarchy which is shown in her firmness to leave helmer and not caring about her sacred duty.

On comparing the two texts on basis of patriarchy, both authors have shown the protagonists to be weak and overpowered by male dominance and then towards the end to the effect of which the protagonists have been seen subverting and rebelling against the patriarchy.


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