What common theme or idea is being presented in "A Doll's House” and the story “Chrysanthemums"?Compare the social commentary in these two plays.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, and "Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck, the common theme in these two stories revolves around “a woman's place.”

In A Doll's House, Nora is our protagonist. She is controlled by the men in her life: first her father, then her husband, and finally, Krogstad, the man she borrows money from.

The era in which she lives has specific societal expectations of women: be subservient and proper. Do not question the authority of husband or society. And don't do anything to embarrass yourself, and thereby embarrass your husband.

Nora, after turning the world upside down to save her husband's life earlier in their marriage, has now been found out. Her husband cares not at all about her sacrifices on his behalf; he only cares about how society will perceive him. At the end, Nora leaves.

In "Chrysanthemums," Elisa is a woman who is a good and hardworking wife. She has a supportive husband, and they have a nice home and a fine life together. However, Eliza finds herself disheartened when a tinker (a traveling man who sells things or services, such as repairing broken household items out of his wagon or truck), manipulates Eliza into giving him work by pretending he values what she values: her chrysanthemums. When Eliza goes out that evening with her husband, she sees the pot of plantings she had given the tinker have been discarded on the side of the road.

In both stories, our female protagonists are undervalued within their society. Nora is not allowed to borrow money to save her husband, and is not recognized as her husband's equal.

Eliza is treated well by her husband, but the tinker's behavior exposes the truth of much of society's view that women, in general, are lesser individuals. Eliza realizes that she would love to be able to move freely about as the tinker does, but cannot do so because she is a woman.

In both stories, the women are restricted by the society in which they live. Nora decides to do something about it. Eliza may perceive herself differently, but the sense at the story’s end is that this will change nothing in her life with respect to the society in which she lives.


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A Doll's House

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