A Dollís House versus Washington Square

        After having read A Dollís House, by Henrik Ibsen, and Washington Square, by Henry James, I realized that both authors, although from completely different countries and continents, show a lot of similarities in writing their stories about women in hands of men and take Victorian background for their stories. In Washington Square (1880), filmed in 1949 by William Wyler as The Heiress, Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) is under the control of her father (Ralph Richardson) and acts how her father wants her to act. Although she receives good education and even goes on a trip to Europe with her father, she is not able to build her life as she likes. She has to ask in case she wants to marry; and, if her father disapproves of the man, she will not receive any money from him if she acts against his will. In A Dollís House (1879), filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland respectively, Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom) is also in the hands of her father in the beginning; and after that she is under control of her husband, Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) She depends on him for money and is not even allowed to sign anything without his knowledge.

        Nevertheless, they search for independence in the course of events and face the male authority. In the case of Catherine, she even has to face it two times: At first, she realizes that her father despises her for her plainness. At that point, she is ready to break with him and go away with Morris (Montgomery Clift). But after Morris also leaves her alone, she does not know where to go and stays at her fatherís (Ralph Richardson) house, although she separates her as much as she can and does not even sit on his side when he dies in the movie, although she does in the book. That is her small first victory over male authority. Her second and last one is when she locks the door, so Morris is not able to come back, and she is the one that deceived him in the end in pretending to still be in love with him in the movie, whereas in the book, she just politely sends him away. Nora even leaves her husband in the end and tries to go her own way, being independent

.         Moreover, both female characters seem to be naÔve and plain in the beginning and go through a certain development, losing their naivety and searching for independence.

        I think that the similarities in those works are very interesting, especially because the authors came from different continents. Some people say that Henry James was influenced by Henrik Ibsen; but, maybe, it was the other way round. Nevertheless, in both cases they profited from each other and wrote great works that portray interesting women, even if both of them are male beings and could have had another way of depicting women.

Corinna Witkowski