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Comparison of the characters in a dolls house and the stranger

Comparison of the Characters in "A Doll's House" and "The Stranger"

In the real world there exist many different people, of different races

and ages, each one unique. Some live secluded lives with few friends and others

live very rich and complex lives surrounded by friends and acquaintances. No

matter what type of life is led it is human nature to adjust one's external

personality to suit the specific situation, much like putting on and removing

different masks. People tend to be polite and respectful to others in public

even though they may not know the person well or not care for them, yet behind

closed doors that mask may disappear and their true feelings may come to the

surface. People may adjust their external behaviour and attitudes when around

others because they may not like their true selves and either want to change

themselves or just merely fit in with society and be liked by others. Another

mask that is often worn is the powerful and superior one and so to feel

superior when among others pushes them around and becomes a bully. This same

person could be gentle, nice and kind when around family but may feel the need

to appear superior around other people. This form of adjusting one's

personality or mask to suit a situation in life, is also common among characters

in novels, dramas, and other forms of literature. In certain characters it is

evident in the novel The Stranger and the play A Doll's House . In some

instances it is quite easy to notice but other times it may be difficult to

identify the changes in character's masks as the changes slowly develop

throughout the plot.

A form of mask wearing was found at the beginning of the novel The

Stranger, where Meursault goes to the beach to go swimming and meets Marie

Cardona. She was lying on a float when Meursault was swimming towards it. "She

turned toward [him]. Her hair was in her eyes and she was laughing."(20) Later

on when both Meursault and Marie go swimming together "She laughed the whole

time,"(20) and then on the dock while they were drying themselves off Marie

playfully says "I'm darker than you."(20) She puts on a type of giggly, flirty

mask when around Meursault, probably because she likes him and wants to be

friendly with him. It did not seem like a serious interest at first because it

appears that Marie is a very friendly and joyous person who seems like she only

wants to have fun, giggle a lot and behave like a ‘bubble head'. But later on

in the novel it is found that Marie is not so stupid and ‘bubble headed' after

all and that her giggly attitude was simply to get more acquainted with

Meursault. It was the mask she used to get Meursault interested and did not

reflect her true intentions. When Marie goes over to Meursault's house, and

after an exchange of kisses, Marie puts on a more serious tone and asks

Meursault the question "...if I (Meursault) loved her (Marie)"(35). Meursault

then replies "...that [he] didn't think so..."(36) which leaves Marie quite sad

and somewhat broken hearted because it seemed as if both Meursault and Marie

knew that their relationship wouldn't last but in fact Marie did want to make

something out of it. Evidence for this is that she constantly asks Meursault if

he loves her and also if they should get married.

The beginning of the play A Doll's House is similar to the beginning of

the novel The Stranger in that both Nora and Marie appear playful and childlike

but we later discover that again this is merely a mask. In The Stranger, as

stated before, Marie is very childish and giggly when she meets Meursault. The

same goes for Nora. She appears very childish in the opening scene when Helmer

calls her "my little skylark"(148) and "little squirrel"(148). She hides her

macaroons like a child hiding something that she should not have, before going

to see Torvald her husband. This seemed to be an act or a mask because it is

unusual to see a normal woman act like a child. It is not totally obvious at

first that Nora is hiding anything from others or even that she is wearing a

mask. Not until later in the story when Mrs. Linde comes does Nora drop the

mask and reveal her true self when Mrs. Linde and Nora start talking about how

Nora got the money in order to send her husband Torvald to Italy. Together they

play a type of guessing game or cat and mouse.. "There are all sorts of ways I

might have got it [money]"(160) says Nora during this guessing game. A short

while later, Nora reveals herself by telling Mrs. Linde that she "earned"(162)

the money. "[She was] sitting there working and earning money. It was almost

like being a man."(162) This finally revealed Nora's true self. Behind closed

doors she was working as a business woman to earn money. This is quite shocking

because in the 1800's women were only supposed to take care of children and the

household while the men worked. It was important for her to have the attitude

of being playful and like a child in order to hide her true self. Otherwise she

would have been in trouble not only from Torvald but from others as well because

it was not proper or socially acceptable for a woman to work.

Another obvious mask in The Stranger is very evident in Raymond Sintes.

He is" a little on the short side, with broad shoulders and a nose like a

boxer's"(28). At the beginning of the novel when speaking with Meursault,

Raymond tells the story of him running into his mistress's brother and that he

"let him have it"(29). This makes him seem like a strong, aggressive character.

Later, a fight breaks out between Raymond and his mistress. Sounds could heard

of Raymond hitting her. After a while, a policeman shows up and knocks on

Raymond's door. "Raymond opened the door . He had a cigarette in his mouth and

an innocent look on his face"(36). Raymond puts on a different attitude or mask,

hiding the true self that beat his mistress and presents himself to the cop with

an innocent look on his face. He puts on his mask to make it seem as if nothing

had happened. With his macho attitude he stands in front of the policeman

disregarding the plea to get rid of his cigarette. Then out of nowhere ".. the

cop slapped him - a thick, heavy smack right across the face."(36) At this

point, Raymond's mask flew off along with the cigarette that was once in his

mouth and he showed his true self to the policeman. This was the most

embarrassing moment for Raymond because he thinks that only women slap. But

when the cop slapped him that was the ultimate insult to Raymond's personality.

Raymond then has the "shakes"(37) from being incredibly nervous and humiliated

by what the policeman did. He thinks Raymond is drunk due to the ‘shakes' but

Raymond tries to explain "I'm not drunk officer. Its just that I'm here, and

you're there, and I'm shaking, I can't help it."(37) In other words, Raymond

was so humiliated by the cop slapping him, that he is so nervous he is shaking.

Some of the masks that characters exhibit are very subtle and initially

no masks are noticed. This is the case with Meursault in The Stranger as I

discovered that perhaps Mersault was wearing a mask to hide from himself. The

evidence of this is when Meursault notices the "robot lady" in the restaurant

with her regular routine of eating. For some reason he becomes fascinated with

her. "Her gestures were jerky¼she ordered her whole meal all at once¼she gulped

[it] down¼took out of her bag a blue pencil and a magazine¼one by one¼she

checked off almost every program¼put her jacket back on with the same robotlike

movements, and left."(43) Meursault even "followed her for a while"(43). In

part 2 of The Stranger, the robot lady is in the court room and she too is

fascinated by Meursault. He recognises something familiar within her but does

not realise that it may be a reflection of himself. He too has a routine which

he follows in a robotlike fashion such as having "¼lunch at Celestes¼"(21)

Meursault does not recognise his own mask which hides his true self from himself

and prevents him from recognising the woman as a reflection of his true self.

In conclusion, the main reason for the types and significance of mask

wearing or dual-personalities is that it shows how characters behave when among

other characters and when alone. Raymond had his macho attitude which he put on

whenever he felt intimidated by others such as during the fight with his

mistress's brother. A different mask presented itself when the policeman

slapped Raymond. He became very nervous, embarrassed, and began to shake. He

asked to pick up his fallen cigarette as if wanting to piece back together his

shattered ‘tough' mask. Nora had her ‘socially acceptable' mask on to protect

her from both her husband and other's opinions because she lived in a time when

women were not to work.

No matter what the reason is for people wearing masks and altering their

external personalities to hide their true selves, it is evident that it happens

not only in novels and play but also in the real world and is therefore a major

part of human nature. To survive and be accepted by oneself as well as others

people need to have available to them a number of different masks that can be

put when required.

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