Characters from both “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Doll’s House” can be used to contrast and compare the two plays. Amanda Winfield and Nora Helmer are characters from “A Doll’s House” and “The Glass Menagerie,” respectively. While Amanda and Nora come from separate plays, when their characteristics are compared, they share many similarities.
A thorough examination reveals that both Amanda and Nora have flawed personalities. Nora’s behavior is childish, and she loves it when Torvald, her husband, treats her like a child. At the beginning of the play, Nora is depicted as being careless as well as immature (Ibsen 21). Nora’s husband Torvald warns her that she should avoid spending their money in a careless manner, but Nora shows her immaturity by ignoring his words and gives a response that shows she is slapdash with life. In her response, Nora states that she does not believe she is supposed to care whether she owed money or not. The audience also sees Nora’s childlike behavior when she values being called “featherhead” and “little squirrel” by Torvald who is her husband. On the other hand, Amanda’s flaws are evident when she acts ignorant of the problems in her life and keeps on nagging her husband.
Even after knowing that she and her husband Tom Wingfield are experiencing many problems in their marriage, Amanda chooses to give attention to the relationships of other people instead of working hard and focusing on solving her challenges. For example, Amanda’s daughter Laura states that her mother is worried that Laura is going to end up by becoming an old maid. The most common defect between the character of Nora and that of Amanda is that they both act ignorant to their problems and therefore are not concerned about coming up with solutions. Amanda does not acknowledge that their marriage is failing and Nora behaves like a child and has no problem with her husband Torvald treating her like one.
Another similarity between Amanda and Nora is that they are used to illustrate the problems of women in “The glass menagerie” and “A Doll’s House” respectively (Sweeney 27). The reason for Nora’s pretense and acting as a weak person that relies fully on her husband is because she had a fear of the consequences of a confrontation. It was possible to face the problem of debt by discussing it directly with Torvald her husband and explaining that the debt was acquired because of sickness and they needed the money. However, Nora chose to borrow the money for Torvald in a secretive way to ensure that her husband did not feel that his authority in the marriage and as the man was being challenged. Amanda’s difficulties in her marriage also depict the challenges that women experienced in the traditional society. Although Amanda was in a stressful marriage, she is concerned about how the society might judge her daughter if she does not get married soon enough. Amanda, therefore, tries hard to convince her daughter Laura to look for a man that can marry her and goes ahead to state that she well understands what happens to women that end up without getting married (Williams and Tony 71). Both “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Doll’s House” are set in the society that is deeply rooted in patriarchy. “The Glass Menagerie” is used to represent a society where the man is more favored when compared to the woman.
The plays of “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Doll’s House” have a similarity in using characters to illustrate how the conflict plays the role of bringing transformation. In “A Doll’s House” Nora changes from her childlike and careless nature to becoming brave and self-reliant. In the beginning, Nora tolerates her husband to treat her like a child and cares less about the situation, but when finally she finally she finds herself facing a conflict her behavior quickly changes. When Nora is threatened by Krogstad that he was going to tell her husband about the debt she had acquired secretly, she became helpless and had thought of opting for suicide. However, when Torvald knows what his wife had done about acquiring debt and reacts disapproving her actions strongly, Nora finally can deal with the situation with maturity and show some independence in her life. Nora learns that there is no reason for being ashamed for actions because she took the loan to help her husband. She also realizes that her husband does not sincerely love her, especially due to his reaction to her action of taking a loan to help him. Nora’s transformation to become independent is evident when she decides to leave Torvald instead of staying with him even after learning that his love was not true. On the other hand, in “The Glass Menagerie,” Tom leaves Amanda due to her nagging behavior. From the character of Amanda that is seen at the beginning, it was evident that she wrongly believed that women in the society are defined by marriage and therefore it is crucial in their lives, she, however, shows a change in her character when her husband leaves. Instead of getting broken by her husband leaving as it would have been expected, she can cope with the situation and also show some independence. Instead of concentrating and being stressed she chose to focus more on her children’s lives and can control her life (Bloom 32)
Different characters from both “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Doll’s House” show that is the constant struggle of the characters choosing to follow their call of duty or to live the life that their hearts desire. In “A Doll’s House”, Nora had not understood her desire to live an independent life until towards the end when she underwent the struggle of persuading herself to the realization that she did not fit well into the role of being a wife as well as a mother (Langås 152). On the other hand, in the “The Glass Menagerie” Tom was under constant struggle between fulfilling his desire of becoming a merchant marine and meeting his family responsibilities. Circumstances of life are a trap to both Tom and Nora, and they needed a way out.
The defective characters of Amanda and Nora from “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Doll’s House” respectively resulted from the patriarchal society. In both plays, the transformation that has been witnessed in characters is attributed to conflict. It, therefore, shows that in conflict situations women are motivated to find their independence and are likely to reveal their real potential. It is evident from both plays that condone patriarchy is both challenging and frustrating to women.
Bloom, Harold. Tennessee Williams. Infobase Publishing, 2009.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. A&C Black, 2008.
Langås, Unni. “What Did Nora Do? Thinking Gender with A Doll’s House.” Ibsen Studies, 5(2), 2005, pp. 148-171.
Williams, Tennessee, and Tony Kushner. The Glass Menagerie. New Directions Publishing, 2011.
Sweeney, Beth A. Beyond the Mask of Entertainment: Understanding the Role of Theatre in Society. Northern Kentucky University, 2007.