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The Roles Of Women Essay, Research Paper
Nora and Miss Julie were victims, and also products, of their societies. They share many similar psychological characteristics, but at the same time, they are complements of one another; when one went from black to white, the other turned from white to black.
Both women swing between extremes. Both were happy or extremely depressed, poised or neurotic, determined or helpless, until the end of the plays. Both women verbally expressed these feelings in similar ways; broken sentences, unfinished thoughts, and sudden exclamations. In the beginning of the first act, Nora is speaking with Mrs. Linde upon her arrival. Nora consistently interjects to bring the conversation back to herself, with little outbursts of “oh!” and “no no!” (Act 1), followed by a comment concerning her life. Usually seeming unaware of her self-centeredness, she sometimes catches herself. When she does, she stops in mid-sentence and points it out to Mrs. Linde, only to do it all over again. She’s excitable and in need of attention. Miss Julie behaves similarly when she is first introduced into the story, by expressing how much fun she is having dancing, drinking, and celebrating the “midsummer’s eve”. She cuts both Jean and Kristin’s speaking off, because she feels what she has to say is the most important. She talks down to them, yet her reactions to what the two have to say jump from extreme to extreme. She gets flared up, then coquettish, then sharp, then gentle, all in a matter of minutes, showing she really is influenced by what they think.
Nora came from a high society, raised in a protected, comfortable environment. She was sheltered by her father, and played the part of the obedient and loving woman in his life without her mother being there. She moved right on to playing the same part for her Torvald upon their marriage. She was the pet, and received her love this way. It was what she knew; the men were the dominating ones. She only knew how to use her femininity to perform tricks and get what she wanted from Torvald. She played his game, was his “doll”, and she was comfortable in it up until her epiphany. Nora’s power works in the opposite way of Miss Julie. Nora begins with very little power, not realizing the dance that she is doing for Torvald. Nora’s relationship with her husband is based on a bargain she has made in her own mind. She will be a charming, obliging, self-sacrificing wife, and Torvald will love and protect her. Everything that Torvald does for her shows how valuable she is to him, and assures her that she will be taken care of. She does not mind being weak, as long as his strength is at her service. She controls him through her dependency. When he becomes director of the bank, she likes that she will not have to earn money secretly anymore. She is happy that there will be “no more trouble!” (Act 1). She does expect to be rewarded for her years of devotion though.
Miss Julie also lived a life of money and status. Both women enjoyed their privileges and reveled in small treats, such as dancing and good food or drink. And although she too used her femininity to get what she wanted, Miss Julie’s was a different purpose. She used it to control men, to have power over them. She played games with them, but she did it as their superior, while Nora did it as their inferior. Miss Julie was raised as a “half-woman”, doing the work of men and still being a woman, which led her to manipulate them in a dominant way. She was not as lady-like as Nora, and lived a freer life, having not yet married. Miss Julie strives to be ladylike and more refined at times, but resorted to her status and sensuality to get what she wanted. She struggled between wanting to be a lady, and wanting to go dance with the “yokels”. She feels powerful and enjoys her status, even if she occasionally feels sorry for those less fortunate. Nora in the end, decided she needed to live a freer life, and let go of her lifetime of refinement and guidance. She did not have the opportunity that Miss Julie had to test her boundaries.
As Miss Julie digresses to a woman of no power, Nora progresses to strong self-empowerment. Miss Julie plays with Jean, mentally and physically, and appears to lure him in through her higher social status. She uses similar pet talk to what Torvald uses with Nora. In the end though, Jean is the powerful one, having lured her in through his supposed admiration for her. She was attracted to his physical appearance and intrigue, and the curiosity of the forbidden fruit, which was exactly what Jean was fueled by as well. After their affair in the bedroom, he turns on her, using his lower status to manipulate her. Thus, the roles have been reversed. He holds the affair over her head, threatening her social position by the possibility of everyone else finding out about them. She begins to follow what he tells her to do, and generally does so all the way to her suicidal deathbed.
Miss Julie too is convinced that she must commit suicide in order to save herself and those effected by her. Only with Miss Julie, it seems to be more of a hysterical delusion, and not her own idea. Jean puts pressure on her to do it, saying that if he were a woman, he would take that course of action. She needs an outlet, and this is her painful relief. She is in a trance-like state as she faces her last moments alive, just as Nora is when Torvald is off reading the letter. At those moments, both feel a calm, having concluded that suicide is the answer.
Miss Julie’s suicidal conclusion is similar to a temporary conclusion that Nora comes to. Before Torvald has read the letter from Krogstad, Nora is determined to kill herself. By committing suicide, she will prevent Torvald from taking the blame on himself. Instead of having to suffer guilt and self-hate for having ruined Torvald, she will save his career as she had earlier saved his life. Her idea is that she will be enshrined forever in his memory and will not have to fear the loss of his love when she is no longer so attractive. When he does not react the way she predicts, and is preoccupied with his own feeling’s of inadequacy, Nora is heartbroken. He neither praises her for having earned the money to save his life, nor offers to take the blame for her forgery. Instead he calls her a hypocrite, a liar, and a criminal and tells her that she “won’t be allowed to bring up the children” (Act 3). Her dream has been shattered, and she feels a total injustice, since she has been ready to die for him, and he is thinking only of himself. Enraged and devoid of faith, she feels now that she does not love Torvald and that he has never loved her. Nora’s anger then leads to the desire for more freedom and she begins her self-empowerment. She impulsively decides she is leaving to go find herself the woman that has been hidden behind the doll for so long.
Miss Julie and Nora behave in similar ways at the end of the plays. Nora is at a realization that she feels is positive, while Miss Julie is at her dreadful end. Nora’s end can result in her death, although it most likely would not be a physical death. Both women have had a lifelong fear of being poor and losing their status. Yet at the end Nora is confident, like a person in the early stage of therapy that only cares about clinging to their new perceptions. She is a bit cold-blooded, not allowing herself to feel a sense of loss or to feel one of her notorious extreme emotions. Miss Julie is also somewhat detached, but she holds very little self-empowerment, even asking Jean to order her to do it. She is still confident that she is making the right choice. It is her way out, just as Nora’s way out is the door to her house. Miss Julie is not experiencing one of her stronger emotions, as Nora was not. She is said to walk out strongly, with the idea that “the first shall be the last” (Act 3) haunting her.
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