Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House (1879)" became the landmark of realism, the prevalent genre of the theater during Ibsen's time. Realism was and is the literary movement that strives to portray life as it really is, in its accuracy, and avoids idealizations of it. "A Doll's House" is a modern prose drama that established Ibsen's reputation as a major Norwegian dramatist of his time. He used themes and structures of classical tragedy about ordinary people while bringing out his concern for women's rights and human rights, in general. Ibsen believed that husbands and wives must live together as equals and free to become their own selves. His unconventional treatment of marriage earned him the disapproval of critics and this unpopularity drove him out of Oslo to live in countries like Italy and Germany for the next 27 years.
Doll's House" is a very sad, serious and intense modern prose drama with Nora Helmer as the lead character's struggle to keep her secret of illegally borrowing money from the knowledge of her husband, Torvald. She tries to do this by restraining Krogstad, a bank employee who knows about it, from letting Torvald know about it. Meantime, Torvald wants to terminate Krogstad for his poor reputation in the bank. Krogstad coerces Nora to prevent her husband from firing him or he will reveal Nora's illegal borrowing to him. Despite struggles from Nora's end, Torvald eventually learns about her secret and accuses her a hypocrite and a liar and the destroyer of his happiness. He, however, withdraws his accusation upon receiving the forged contract of her illegal borrowing. But Nora has already been shaken far enough. She finally confronts her true conflict, which is against her husband's selfish and oppressive behavior and that of the society to which he belongs. She tells him that, despite their eight years of marriage, they fail to understand each other and that she is tired of being treated like a doll, an object of his mere delight and admiration. She decides to find herself for which she leaves her husband and children.
Supporting the playhouse inhabited by Nora, Torvald and Krogstad are her childhood friend Kristine Linde and Torvald's best friend Dr. Rank. Kristine Linde is not only the keeper of Nora's secret but her poverty also provides the contrast to Nora's comfortable and pampered life. Dr. Rank, of all the characters, is unconcerned with what others think about him and proceeds to speak about his "diseased nature" and his affection for Nora.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's novel, " Frankenstein (1818)," is a well-known Gothic science fiction in English about the monster created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein from body parts of dead persons. Its settings change from Geneva, the Swiss Alps, Ingolstadt, England and Scotland. The story is narrated by explorer Robert Walton who meets the weak and dying Victor Frankenstein and learns about his creature from him. The novel is romantic, tragicm and fatalistic and hovers around the themes of dangerous knowledge, the sublime nature of man, secrecy and monstrosity. Other characters are Victor's bride Elizabeth Lavenza, Alphonse Frankenstein, Henry Clerval, Victor's youngest brother William Frankenstein and Justine Moritz, the Frankensteins' adopted young girl.
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was 16 years old when she joined her lover Percy Bysshe Shelly and Lord Byron's group in the summer of 1816 to the Swiss Alps where and when she composed the novel as her contribution to the group's outputs. Mary was the child of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, a radical thinker who counted among other radical thinkers in English, among them Thomas Paine and William Blake. Mary met and ran away with Percy, although he had a wife, Harriet. Harriet later killed herself by drowning and Mary and Percy eventually got married.
Percy edited Mary's manuscript, which immediately became a bestseller. But the success was short-lived and had a trade-off. Three of their four children died in infancy and Percy drowned off the shore of Tuscany, leaving Mary a widow and single mother. She spent the rest of her life writing and publishing until she died of serious illness.
Ibsen's "A Doll's House" and Shelley's "Frankenstein" were written in two different periods: "A Doll's House," published in the last two decades of the 19th century, is a modern prose drama that strives to portray life accurate, i.e., without idealizations and misrepresentations. It introduced Realism as a movement in the theater in Ibsen's time and became its very landmark. On the other hand, "Frankenstein" is a Gothic science fiction or novel that brings out what lies behind the cover of monstrosity. It was written and published in the first decades of the same century when "A Doll's House" was written and published. "A Doll's House" satirizes the social lie and the duty in the sacred institution of marriage as well as the traditional position of well-kept women in rich and comfortable families in Ibsen's times. Many believe that Mary Shelley wrote and dedicated "Frankenstein," to honor her father, William Godwin, who believed that the true purpose of education is to prepare a suitable generation capable of saving the human race. Mary created a monster to highlight and condemn the defects of the society, which Godwin found in his time. The two works of fiction expose and mock the ills, dishonesties and cruelties of society in different ways, Ibsen in a frank and courageous way through his characters Nora and Dr. Rank; and Mary Shelley, in an obscure or indirect but powerful and painful way through her nameless, confused and hated monster. Ibsen condemns the hypocrisy of his time in the person of a woman, while Mary Shelley brings out the ugly and weak in people in the person of a man, Frankenstein's creature.
Nora Helmer lives out a lie in a comfortable home, well-cared-for family and in an environment of adulation from friends in society, Frankenstein's monster seeks to uncover the truth about himself from the mirror of society's behavior towards him. Both Nora and the monster are playthings in the hands of their supporters or creators. Torvald Helmer cultured Nora in a gilded cage for his pleasure, while Dr. Frankenstein produced his monster in the pursuit of his ultimate goal, ambition and selfish pleasure of playing God by creating life.
Henrik Ibsen carved out a female character, Nora, to express his ideal that every man and every woman should be free to become what he or she chooses for himself or herself. On the other hand, Mary Shelley fashioned a male character out of hideous sources to express her innermost desire to discover the truth about human beings and life. While a wife, Nora is made utterly dependent upon her husband for all her needs, including the need to please. The relationship is more between a parent and a child, who must depend on his or her parent to survive. Mary Shelly also fashions a father-and-son relationship between Victor Frankenstein and his ogre, who depends on his creator not only for his survival but also for his identity.
Nora, the creature of Torvald in Ibsen's play, is a light-hearted, whimsical, pretty, seductive and pleasant woman. In exchange for an easy life and a dotting family, she must remain a fixture within the confines of that family and restrictions of society for acceptable women and wives like her. In contrast, Mary Shelley's creature, right at the start, is an oversized, hideous and fumbling waste product of Victor Frankenstein's misplaced genius, which seeks his identity, his own place in this world and in the hearts of the people responsible for his entry into life.
Doll's House" and "Frankenstein" share similar themes. One is the role of women in society. In "A Doll's House," the woman is an integral and major part of a home where she owes allegiance to the husband and dutifully cares for her children in exchange for support and a comfortable existence from the husband. If she plays the role well, she receives social approval and respect. But her personal independence is sacrificed in place of these rewards. She does not have a personality, will and existence outside of what her husband and society establish for her as her concrete destiny and worth. In "A Doll's House," Nora's prime duty, her very reason for living, is her husband's pleasure, and which in turn is tempered by the society Torvald pays allegiance to. A woman or Nora must sacrifice all autonomy to play that pre-destined role satisfactorily. This clear-cut passive or sacrificial role of women also underlies Mary Shelley's novel in the role of Elizabeth Lavenza. Elizabeth's sole and all-consuming purpose in life is to belong to Victor Frankenstein from beginning to end. She subverts all individualism and other personal concerns to that one and overall life purpose of dedicating herself to Victor.
Parental and filial obligation is another common theme between the two works. Nora, in "A Doll's House," tells Kristine Linde that, while men refuse to sacrifice their integrity, "hundreds of thousands of women have." Kristine Linde…