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A Comparison of Mrs. Alving and Nora Helmer

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A Comparison of Mrs. Alving and Nora Helmer

Henrick Ibsen was a phenomenal playwright that wrote of two very unique women. Not only are they great characters, they are women characters set in a 19th century time period. These two ladies are Nora Helmer from A Doll’s House, and Mrs. Alving from “Ghosts.” Ibsen’s goals were to make the public aware of the discrimination against women and to question the morality of the middle class. Both of these protagonists have similarities as leading roles, but there are also quite a bit of differences in their characters.

Both Helmer and Alving live in the middle class society level. They have (or in Alving’s case, had) wealthy husbands who treated them in an inferior manner. Both women are expected to stay home and watch over the children and look nice. In both cases, both of the women have different plans in mind. Helmer is a young woman with three children and a husband about to made manager of the bank. She is almost treated as a small child. This is shown on page four of A Doll’s House, where Helmer’s husband, Torvald says, “Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?…That is like a woman!…What is this! Is my little squirrel out of temper?” This quotation shows that he feels that she couldn’t handle the responsibility of money and that she is to be babied like one of his children. This is different from the household of Alving. She reflects about her husband and states, “I have suffered a good deal in this house. To keep him at home in the evening-and at night-I have had to play the part of boon companion in his secret drinking-bouts in his room up there. I have had to sit there alone with him, have had to hobnob and drink with him, have had to listen to his ribald senseless talk, have had to fight with brute force to get him to bed… (Ibsen, 92).” Obviously, Alving and Helmer were expected to have different levels of responsibility. Although this does not mean they have different levels of responsibility. With that thought in mind, both characters are quite similar. Helmer really is quite accountable for the fact that she saved her husband’s life. She has to borrow money, and she has been very responsible for paying off her debts. This is a very large task for Helmer to both keep track of and hide from her husband.

Secondly, there is a difference between their relationships with the family. Helmer has learned to love the man she married. She grows to care for him and wants the best for him. This is shown when she admits the truth by saying, “It was I who saved Torvald’s life…It was I who procured the money (Ibsen, 12).” In contrast, Alving would not have done that for her husband. In fact, she feels miserable every year of her marriage with him. This is proven by her companion, Mr. Manders, stating, “It makes my brain reel. To think that your marriage-all the years of wedded life you spent with your husband-were nothing but a hidden abyss of misery (Ibsen, 91).” Alving had a very disloyal husband. Both of the mothers also love their children. It is just that their relationships with them are different. Helmer has her three children with her and plays with them all of the time.

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