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Comparison Of A Doll's House And Oedipus

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Tragedy Comparison Essay

A Doll’s House and Oedipus are two very different stories in very different timelines, however, they both struggle with the same hardships that remain universal today. Both “Oedipus” and “A Doll’s House” the same qualities that are in various tragedies, and both are the cause of their undoing. The qualities the two tragedies share are hubris and peripeteia, however the two contrast in how the protagonists enact the issues that each faces.

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One of the ways these tragedies relate is hubris, which is excessive pride and self confidence. This can be seen in “A Doll’s House” in the main character Nora when she is speaking with her long time friend Linde. In this conversation, after Linde describes the hardships she’s gone through after her husband had died, Nora seems almost jealous, and she seems to brag about the hardships she’s had “You are just like the others. They all think that I am incapable of anything really serious“(Ibsen 1721). Since Nora has hardly experienced life, which involves various hardships, she craved for some kind of negative experience, and even grasped onto- and bragged about the ones she had. This “excessive pride” can be seen in Oedipus when Tiresias continuously refused to reveal the truth about who killed Polybus. Unknowingly, Oedipus mistakenly reacted negatively to this not realizing he was the culprit, and that Tiresias was actually protecting him. His answer not only shows his excessive pride, but his lack of ability to question his own actions. “What you are saying is not customary and shows little love toward the city state which nurtured you, if you deny us your prophetic voice.”(Sophocles 1437) Oedipus and Nora are similar in which both had too much pride in themselves. As a result of Oedipus’s fatal mistake, he eventually learned the horrific truth causing him to gouge his own eyes out “With every blow blood spurted from his eyes down on his beard, and not in single drops, but showers of dark blood spattering like hail.”(Sophocles 1461) Like Oedipus, Nora was also filled with pride and ignorance resulted in the reality of Nora’s situation to be shrouded until the very end of the story when she leaves her house and partner “You know very well that would not last long. [Puts the shawl round her.] Goodbye, Torvald. I won’t see the little ones. I know they are in better hands than mine. As I am now, I can be of no use to them.”(Ibsen 1760) This quality is appeals to the audience because it’s essentially universal. Many people- especially when you look to the famous people of society hold the common aspects of having too much pride.

A second quality the two share is peripeteia, which is an unexpected reversal of fate that the hero faces. This links to the first quality in which the excessive pride led to both of the stories aspects of peripeteia. This is seen in “A Doll’s House” in which Nora possesses a privileged and perfect life. She lived in a house where she got everything she wanted from her husband, and lived in two extremely affluent households her entire life, her father’s and her husband’s. This changed when Nora told her husband about the illicit loan that she gained with a forged signature, and she had experienced Torval’s reaction. Her initial expectations were for him to be enraged with her, which held true until Torvald realized their public image wasn’t going to be tarnished. After this he went back to acting all “lovey dovey” towards Nora. When she saw this, she realized she resembled a doll, in which he controlled every part of her life, and that he only desired to be with her in good times. “ I was papa’s doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald.”(Ibsen 1757) This relates to Oedipus when he finally realizes he was the one who killed his father and had children with his mother, after his long pursuit of the person who committed the murder. “She was remembering that child of theirs born many years ago— the one who killed his father, who left her to conceive cursed children with that son.”(1459) Both protagonists face these spontaneous changes in the storyline which harm them in their immediate future.

The way the two stories differ is the way they end up bringing tragedy upon themselves. In “A Doll’s house”, Nora had put herself in a binding place before the story began. This can be seen after Krogstad’s firing when she starts worrying about the impending threats that she faces from him. “Have you forgotten that it is I who have the keeping of your reputation? [NORA stands speechlessly looking at him.]Well, now, I have warned you. Do not do anything foolish.“(Ibsen 1743)This is different from Oedipus in which he ends up outing himself by pushing more and more for the killer of his Polybus to be revealed. Oedipus doesn’t realize that he has done anything wrong and became the source of his own undoing, which is the reverse when it comes to Nora who was knowledgeable about her mistakes and attempted to shroud them rather than have them be outed. In this sense, both Nora and Oedipus brought harm to themselves in polar opposite ways.

In conclusion, while both Nora and Oedipus shared many qualities, when it comes how they came to their fall, the two differ in many ways. When it comes to Nora, someone else was the source of her downfall, when it comes to Oedipus, he eventually exposed himself and became his own downfall.

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