Realism is a big part of making a realistic production successful, and the argument of whether life can be presented on stage as it really seems to be a discussion that no two playwrights will ever agree on. The objectification of women in the realist plays Doll’s House, and Pygmalion is a feature that makes the plays real, and both present a different view of the reality of women’s place in a man’s world. Henry Ibsen of Norway, the writer of Doll’s House, and Bernard Shaw, the writer of Pygmalion, have both been responsible for the major theatrical movement of realism. A Doll’s House and Pygmalion are both suitable realist plays and have tremendous sections to suit the upcoming Theatre-in-Education traveling show. Together, they both explore and support the objectification of women in society. The objectification of women in the realist plays Dolls House and Pygmalion is similar; they are both plays where Nora (in Dolls House) and Eliza (in Pygmalion) are treated like puppets by the males of the play.
The section chosen from A Doll’s House to show the objectification of women, or Nora, is Act 3, pages 223–227. It seems in this section that Nora has always tried to make herself believe that she is more to Helmer than his little songbird. However, it gets to the point where she realizes that she has never been happy in the marriage and that it is time to move on and learn about life on her own without Helmer there to control her. It is an example of realist theater as it shows that Nora finally realizes that she has been an object of Helmer’s affection and that there are always two sides, thoughts, and feelings, to a relationship. If there is a difference or someone is not happy in the relationship, it is sure that it won’t last, no matter how much one thinks it’s a real partnership.
Ibsen leaves the readers in this section with the impression that Nora has no idea about life because she has only ever lived in Helmers’s house. Nora has never had to make any decisions and so on because she is Helmers’s puppet, a little songbird, and obviously too incapable of doing so because she is a woman. To back this one of the statements in this section from Helmer, “My poor little songbird, rest safely, and my great wings will protect you, makes it out as if Nora cannot look after herself. Nora talks about how she and Helmer have never exchanged a serious word on a serious subject, with Helmer’s response being, What, and involve you in worries that you couldn’t possibly help me with? Making a point that Nora is only a woman, a housewife, and couldn’t be of any help in a man’s world of business.
To finish this section of Nora being objectified, she tells Helmer that when she lived with her father, she had to have the same opinion as him; if she had a different one, she had to hide it because it was a worthless woman’s opinion. She explains how she was her father’s doll, and he played with her as she played with her dolls. She hoped to escape this when she moved in with Helmer, only to relive being a doll all over again. She’s saying that she was her father’s doll child and Helmers’s doll-wife; in turn, her children have been her dolls.
This section points out that both Nora and Helmer have very different thoughts about the relationship that they have together. Nora feels that Helmer doesn’t love her; it’s just pleasant for him to be in love with her; she wants to leave the relationship and educate herself, and Helmer is not the man to do it; she must do it alone. Helmer thinks that Nora is a blind, inexperienced little creature that couldn’t live without him. It is clear in this section that Nora has been an objectified woman.
The section chosen in Pygmalion to show the independence and objectification of women or Eliza is Act 4, pages 75–77. It is a good example of realist theater as it is where Eliza realizes that she was just a game to Higgins; Eliza had looked up to Higgins and was inspired by him. When she won the bet for him, he told her that he had won it, and it seemed that Eliza thought that Higgins would be more proud of her and that he would like her more than his slippers on the ground. This section points out that Eliza has been an object for Higgins to experiment on; she was nothing but a bit more money and someone else to boss and be in control of. Eliza is very mad when she realizes that she has been a doll or an object that Higgins could play with. He makes her into the person that he would like her to be, and when Eliza hears Higgins thanking God that it is all over, she gets annoyed at Higgins and throws his slippers at his face, saying, That’s enough for you, I don’t matter, I suppose.”
The relationship that Higgins and Eliza’s share is very different. Higgins can never respect Eliza because he cannot see the new Eliza; Higgins can only see Eliza for what she was, not what she has become. Eliza looks up to Higgins as he has made her what she is now, exactly what she had dreamed of being, only to find out that Higgins doesn’t care and that she is no better off being a duchess than she was a flower girl.
In conclusion, A Doll’s House and Pygmalion are both excellent realist plays written by two playwrights who have a wonderful way of trying to represent the majority of life and realism on stage. It seems though that “Doll’s House,” a play about serious problems, is a little more interesting, a better example, and probably more appropriate for the upcoming Theatre-in-Education traveling show as the objectification of women seems a little more obvious.
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