How are the characters of Nora in A Doll's House and Alceste in The Misanthrope similar?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The similarities between Nora in A Doll's House and Alceste inThe Misanthrope can be categorized in the following three aspects:

  • characters versus their society
  • purpose versus misunderstanding
  • their essential nature

When it comes to characters versus their society , Nora and Alceste are alike in that their ideas and values are not appreciated. Although their values are different and the way they use their values also differs, the fact remains that Nora and Alceste are literally working against the social wave. Nora cannot be appreciated for doing the sacrifice of saving her husband's life simply because her position as a wife makes any other type of activity be deemed "inappropriate". This is a direct characterization of women as weaker, simpler, and less important people. Alceste's strong sense of morality crashes against the debauchery of the society with which he interacts on a daily basis. His sermons are ignored, and his ways are criticized by everyone equally.

Purpose vs. Misunderstanding - both, Nora and Alceste are essentially trying to do what is right. Nora pleases her husband, entertains her children, abides by the wifely rules, and even made a major social faux pas in getting a loan from another man in aims of saving her husband. Alceste wants people to learn good values such as telling the truth, being sincere, and leading an honorable life. This is done also with the best intentions. Yet, nobody seems to understand the purpose of these character's actions. Instead, people abide by the status quo and refuse to entertain that the actions of others have a meaning and purpose behind them.

The essential nature of Nora and Alceste is basically "good". There is no evidence of any deviance nor mischief in their characters; their actions seem to be altruistic for the mere fact of doing onto others the right way. Moreover, they are quite victimized, although in a passive manner; Nora is a victim of her historical time and of her gender, and of the expectations placed upon her. Alceste is victimized by his peers in that they see him as an anachronous piece of work. However, both Nora and Alceste have a lot to offer and their actions denote nothing but an inherent sense of basic decency.

Read the study guide:
The Misanthrope

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