Which Road Taken?
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” the opening line of Robert Frost's most beloved poem, The Road Not Taken, speaks of a common scenario in life. A traveler has come to a crossroads and is forced to make a choice on which "road", or path he wants to choose. Right or wrong, who can say, but one thing is for sure, it is life changing. Henrik Isben shows us one particular choice and where each path leads through the characters of Mrs. Alving from Ghosts and Nora from A Doll’s House. Each woman finds herself in an oppressive and dishonest marriage, unhappy, unsatisfied and longing for a way out. Each must make a decision whether to stay or leave. Since both plays question the dynamics of the spousal relationship and a woman’s place in the home, they seem to be perfect echoes of each other.
At the beginning of A Doll’s House, Nora carries in several festive packages and a Christmas tree, quickly followed by her joyful children. Their family appears to be happy. However, we soon realize that the dynamic between Nora and her husband, Helmer, is empty and superficial. Nora’s life seems to be that of a lifeless doll. Helmer thinks little of her intellectual abilities and instead toys with her thoughts and emotions.
Ghosts, on the other hand, is almost devoid of any hope even from the beginning. It creates a gloomy, cold atmosphere. Although Mrs. Alving tries to look forward to the future, she is still haunted by her late husband’s scandalous lifestyle. The ghosts of the past now inhabit her grown son’s reality.
Even the names Ibsen gives these two women show the difference of hope in the two plays. In A Doll’s House, Nora is given a first name, making her seem a bit more spirited and relate-able. In Ghosts, Mrs. Alving is seldom called by her first name, Helen, distancing her from femininity and originality. She is still only identified as her husband's wife, even ten years after his death.
It’s not until the end of A Doll’s...