My Not So Fair Doll's House

         Both film and literature serve to open doors of information to the world. This transfer of information takes place by means of sight, hearing, and thinking. Through radio, television, plays, and books, film and literature are used simultaneously to stimulate both thought and understanding in the minds of the audience. It is important that both film and literature, when dealing with issues pertaining to society, women, family, relationships, or any other agenda effectively display not only the message but also reveal a solution to the problem. Good films, good literature, or a combination of both effectively state issues and subject matter; and throughout the scene, the issues are played out until a solution is found or made. Film and literature can display issues through satire, which makes a play on social issues or race, or through comedy, where it can reveal to the audience how silly an idea or issue may be.

         Three film and literature combos which are good examples of displaying and solving their respective issues are Pygmalion, the 1913 play by George Bernard Shaw, and its movie adaptation directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, and My Fair Lady, the 1956 play by Alan J. Lerner, and Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House, directed by Joseph Losey in 1973. A common factor in all three touches on women's issues and deals with the manner in which men treat women. In the three films previously mentioned, the issues that would be discussed as well as abstracted for them, deal with psychological studies, women's issues, and abusive relationships.

         In dealing with women's issues, I find it is only fitting to mention both Torvald (David Warner) and Nora (Jane Fonda) from the play and film A Doll's House. The relationship that they had as husband and wife was one that lacked communication and seriousness as well as honesty. Ibsen used this play as a stepping stone to speak about women's issues and show the struggles Nora encountered before she realized she had to make a change for herself. Ibsen focuses on the lack of power and authority given to women, but Nora demonstrates the strength and willpower suppressed by her husband, Torvald.

         Ibsen also uses the play to tackle women's rights as a matter of importance being neglected. He acknowledges the fact that in nineteenth century European life, the role of the woman was to stay home, raise children, and tend to their husbands. The oppression of women caused many to believe their duty in life was only to be a wife. Through Nora, Ibsen provides a narrative of one woman's plight to find her purpose in life, which can be used as a model to women everywhere. Nora's realization of Torvald's part in her misery allows her to leave him. She realizes that Torvald will never change and also becomes aware of the treatment she has endured. Ibsen provides an answer to the controversy by allowing Nora to solve the problem at the end of the play, which indirectly sends a message to the audience on ways to solve their own problems. Ibsen encourages women to make a change by taking action and not watching their lives pass them by while enduring suffering through feeling trapped.

         Both Nora in A Doll's House and Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion and My Fair Lady were subject to abuse. Eliza's (Wendy Hiller/Audrey Hepburn) was more psychological as she often endured the rantings and ravings of her teacher, Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard/Rex Harrision), who never treats her with respect and considers her to be nothing more than a creature. At the beginning, Eliza is scorned because she was only a poor flower girl, not a member of high society. Since class and rank was very important along with dress and speech, she had nothing but what Higgins would refer to as curbstone anguish and appeared weak and humble in asking Higgins to help her. Throughout the play, the audience is able to witness Higgins' teasing and name-calling phrases, such as "impudent slut," "creature," and "guttersnipe." He also treats Eliza as if she is a child by punishing her if she does not do what he wants of her and by constantly telling her to fetch things as though she is his pet.

         Nora is also susceptible to psychological abuse through Torvald's name calling. Nora eventually comes to the realization that she is nothing but a doll to Torvald when she tells him, "Our home has never been anything but a playroom. I've been your doll-wife. I used to think it was fun when you came in and played with me. That's all our marriage has been." However, all the happenings of that night are enough to open Nora's eyes and allow her to see the direction in which her life is moving.

         As women, young or old, it is important to do three things: to learn, to understand, and to make decisions. In this day and age, women have far too many freedoms to be limited to house and home. Women are able to go out and into the workforce and earn a living. Women can also take part in activities just as men do, such as sports and leisure. Thus, they can know what women are capable of and understand and see the types of abuse, if they occur, whether verbal or physical. Abuse is abuse, and women must understand that they do not have to remain under unpleasant conditions whether in the workplace with an annoying coworker, in the home with a husband or boyfriend who treats her less than what she really is, or anywhere in society. Understanding then leads to decision making. Making decisions can be good or bad, but it is important to make the right ones. Move away from any kind of abuse or unpleasant things. Find yourself and be strong. Just as Eliza and Nora made decisions to better their lives, it is important that women also use them as guidelines.

         Both Shaw and Ibsen present problems dealing with psychological, social, as well as abuse issues within their plays. Along with the problems that the authors present come solutions. Both women experience a turning point in their lives through experiences followed by decision making. Both women realize that the men in their lives are unwilling to change, and therefore they have to make a change for themselves. I hope that the reaction of the group of women I was teaching would be a positive one and that there would be some awareness of not only how far women have come, but also in how strong women really are. Learning, understanding and decisions are three things that can take a person a long way.

Chantal Curtis

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