Keeping Up Appearances in A Dollís House and Pleasantville

†††††††† Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House, filmed in 1973 by Joseph Losey, has many similarities that can also be found in Gary Ross's 1998 film Pleasantville. The theme portrayed in both of these stories circulates around the principle of keeping up appearances. The two stories present a wife who fakes a smile day in and day out to protect the identity of a perfectly happy family.

†††††††† Nora, played by Jane Fonda, in Joseph Losey's A Doll's House, is an unhappy housewife who is being held back intellectually by her husband, Torvald, depicted by David Warner. Torvald was constantly demeaning Nora by calling her names, such as "My Little Squirrel" and talking to her as if all of her happiness can be fulfilled with the flash of some cash. Torvald was a dull husband who never seemed to put any effort into trying to stimulate his wife intellectually or emotionally. He assumed she was perfectly satisfied prancing around her "doll house," buying presents, and sneaking sweets, such as macaroons, into their home. Torvald is the force in her life that is holding her back. Nora's escaped secret, concerning the loan of money she had taken out, while forging her dead father's signature, in order to take him to Italy to nurse him back to health, ends up being the event that rescues her from her doll-like life.

†††††††† The story of Pleasantville is based upon the arrival of two teenagers from the future that get trapped into a black and white 1950's sitcom. The teenagers, David Wagner/Bud Parker, portrayed by Tobey Maguire, and Jennifer Wagner/Mary Sue Parker performed by Reese Witherspoon, slowly bring color into this black and white world by breaking some rules and not showing much concern for the presence of proper appearances. The teenagers teach the town of Pleasantville to aspire towards self-happiness. The closer the residents come to this, the more color they create and they add a better excellence to their lives.

†††††††† In the film Pleasantville, the wife, Betty Parker, played by Joan Allen, experiences the same sort of situation as Nora. Her husband George Parker, portrayed by William H. Macy, is a lot like Torvald. Both husbands fail to recognize the fire inside of their wives and lack the ability to provide the attention and respect their wives need in order to stay satisfied. However, instead of a deeply buried secret revealed in A Doll's House, Betty Parker's means of rescue comes from the lessons from the teenagers about how people should do what they need to do in order to make themselves happy. Betty ends up leaving her husband for the man that brings passion and attention into her life. Comparatively, Nora's realization of Torvald's lack of respect for her intellectual skills and ability of being a fit mother brings her to change her way of life. She decides to leave her husband as well and pursue her own goals.

†††††††† Nora and Betty Parker are both women that have been falsely advertising their "pleasant" and "doll house-like" lives in the effort to keep up appearances. The two women in the end realize that life is meant as an opportunity to take risks in the hopes to achieve a fuller, more colorful life.

Janna Tanner

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