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Compare and contrast the plays A Doll's House and Death of a Salesman.

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lehcir | Student | Valedictorian

Posted November 21, 2012 at 8:05 PM via web

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Compare and contrast the plays A Doll's House and Death of a Salesman.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 22, 2012 at 6:28 AM (Answer #1)

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One of the central comparisons that can be made between these two works is the way in which characters in both delude themselves and others and ignore the truth and reality of their situation. It is clear as both plays develop that this is the case for both protagonists; Nora deliberately tries to keep her husband from finding out about her actions and plays the role of loving wife just as Willy attempts to convince both himself and those around him that he is a success. Note how Torvald refers to his wife at the beginning of the play, showing how she is assuming a role and playing a part of devoted wife:

My little singing bird mustn't go drooping her wings, eh? Has it got the sulks, that little squirrel of mine? [Takes out his wallet] Now what do you think I've got here?

The roles between Torvald and Nora are not really that of a husband and wife but more accurately that of a father and a child. Characters play roles in this play that conceal their real selves. In the same way, Willy still repeats his broken litany trying to convince both himself and those around him of his success in his job as a salesman:

I'm the New England man. I'm vital in New England.

As the play progresses, we see this for the outright lie it is as reality catches up with Willy and he is forced to face the failure of his working life. In both plays, therefore, reality finally catches up with the central characters, with Nora accepting the way that she has allowed herself to be treated like a child and not a woman, and Willy coming to understand that he is a failure.

The major difference is of course the element of tragedy. For Nora, this self-understanding can actually be seen as hopeful. Even though she defiantly leaves her former life behind her, the audience is given a sense of hope as she determines to find herself and live her life on her own terms. Self-understanding is literally the death of Willy, fitting this play into the genre of Domestic Tragedy.

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