Men Taking Power

     Many books tell a story where a man has control over a woman. Two books in particular show a good example of men in charge. Torvald has control over Nora in A Doll's House, written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen and filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland respectively, while Higgins takes charge of Eliza in Pygmalion, written in 1913 by George Bernard Shaw and filmed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard and as a musical, My Fair Lady, in 1964 by George Cukor. In both cases the woman submits to the will of the man.

     Higgins (Leslie Howard/Rex Harrison) takes Eliza (Wendy Hiller/Audrey Hepburn) into his care in hopes that he will be able to improve the way she speaks. After a very short amount of time it is obvious that Higgins has control of her. He tells her what she must do, and she does not hesitate to follow orders. Eliza knows that, if she does not do what Higgins tells her, the kind treatment that she is receiving will quickly disappear. Higgins does not need to threaten her; she is already aware of the danger that comes with disobeying him. For this reason she takes Higgins commands very seriously.

     The same is true with the relationship between Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins) and Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom). Nora knows what she can get away with, but she always tries for more. Torvald is usually very firm in his decisions, and Nora listens. When Nora is told to stop talking about a topic, she does not linger on it for much longer. Even when the safety of her family is threatened by an outsider, she does not continue to talk about things that Torvald does not wish to discuss. With many years of marriage behind them, Nora understands that Torvald's word is final.

     In both relationships the man controls everything that happens. The need for intimidation never arises, but the women always sense the hazard of going against the man's instructions. Everything goes smoothly as long as the women do what the men say. It is only when the women decide to go against the men that the women run into trouble.

Grant Apanowicz

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