Father of Realism


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Who is the classic father of realism? Answer and Explanation: Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, creator of A Doll's House, is recognized as the father of realism. Henry James was a short story author generally placed in the transitional period between realism and the later Modernist Movement, which continued into the twentieth century.

Father of Realism

Why is Henrik Ibsen considered the father of realism in theater?



Henrik Ibsen is considered the father of realism in theater because he focused on realistic settings, realistic dialogue, and, most of all, the creation of psychologically realistic characters in his plays. His dramas turned away from the escapist spectacles common in his time period to explore serious social issues.

Father of Realism

Father of Realism

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Henrik Ibsen, the “Father of Realism”



The movement from nineteenth-century Romanticism to twentieth-century Realism in art and literature sought to accurately reflect real life instead of idealizing it. Playwrights all over Europe and America rebelled against the established standards of a “well-made play”. They shocked, as well as horrified their audience, by abstaining from writing a resolution, or an “ideal ending” in their plays. These innovators insisted on presenting social issues in a dramatic scenario, and imposed their discussions onto their audience. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, the “Father of Realism” was one of the main advocates for social revolution.

He was notorious for weaving controversial topics into his plays, as well as for including female leads. He knew very well that society’s oppression over women was a prime example of the hamper it placed over every person’s potential. Writing about women allowed him to make a universal call, not only to women, but to every sentient being. His plays cried out for the individual’s emancipation. In A Doll’s House , Ibsen portrayed the altruistic nature instilled into women by society, the consequential stunt of their development, and the need for them to find their own voice in a world dominated by men.
For ages, society has taught women to set aside their own needs and to focus on those of her husband and children. Women have been forced to be passive, gentle creatures who must also be willing to sacrifice themselves for others. Nora, the protagonist in the play, expresses her intention in protecting her husband at any price, “Torvald, with all his masculine pride–how painfully humiliating for him if he ever found out he was in debt to me.

Nora will not admit to Torvald that she has saved his life, for he will most likely acquire an inadequacy complex for his inability to be in control over every aspect of his life. She prefers to be deprived of the credit she deserves than to hurt Torvald’s manly ego. She allows Torvald to treat her like a mischievous little spendthrift although he is not aware that “she had scrimped and skeletonized her own needs so that Helmer and the children had been deprived of nothing” (Salom, 46).
Nora has selflessly given up any extra money for herself so that her children and husband had plenty of money left for themselves. She needs not be praised for her efforts, but finds contentment in being able to provide for her family. After all, society has forever reminded women that the well-being of their family is directly related to how well they deal with their duties as mothers and wives. Torvald asks, “Aren’t they your duties[the most sacred] to your husband and children? ” He dismisses the importance of a woman’s duties to herself.

He believes that women do not need to live for themselves, but must make sure to make life comfortable for the rest of their family. He also goes on to say that “almost everyone who goes bad early in life has a mother who’s a chronic liar” Having said this, it is evident that Torvald shuns the liability that comes with parenting, and imposes it all on Nora. The mother is solely responsible if her child turns out to be a nuisance to society later on in life. Ibsen tells his readers that if a woman fails to recognize her own needs, she will remain stagnant in a doll-child existence.
Nora’s constant need to please her husband has hindered her development as an independent being. Her marriage “is that of a charming child to a parent, and not one of equals. Nora remains an innocent child, who always assumes that Torvald, her father figure, is infallible. This self-abnegation is actually harming her because believing every truth that Torvald proclaims deters her from acquiring the knowledge she needs to be her own person. “I only mean when Torvald loves me less than now, when he stops enjoying my dancing and dressing up and reciting for him.

Then it might be wise to have something in reserve”. Nora feels that she must make Torvald proud of her by constantly providing him with entertainment, just as a child would. She is also aware that as she ages, the novelty will wear off. She fears this because she has no real sense of herself; therefore, she will have nothing substantial to offer Torvald. Nora has caused great harm to herself by dehumanizing herself into a doll-like being, and by letting herself be easily manipulated by Torvald.
Nora begins to awaken when she comes to this realization and says to her husband, “I’ve been your doll-wife here, just as at home I was Papa’s doll-child… That’s been our marriage, Torvald”. Nora has come to the conclusion that she has not been given a chance to grow up, as any other human, but remains ageless, much like a doll. She was stripped of her individuality and turned into “something to talk to… something to throw against the wall. ” Nora has never talked back, but takes in each of Torvald’s ideals, as twisted as they may be.

She lives her life as a dangling marionette dangling from the strings held at Torvald’s mercy. Ibsen also presents the struggle of those women who, like Nora, have become enlightened, and need to seek their own selves outside of the wife/mother role. Women who receive their every single desire on a silver platter cannot ever experience a feeling of achievement. They have to learn that a woman needs to sweat, work hard, because “a strong woman is a woman who is straining. Women need to earn a broader sense of freedom by taking risks.
Only those salmon who dare swim upstream can perpetuate the existence of their prosperity. This same concept applies to the autonomy of women in order to transcend all barriers. “A child casually assumes that a guardian angel watches from above and protects one from stumbling, from disturbances in sleep. But then, human fate enters: no guardian angel protects one’s steps on the journey with its pitfalls, nor prevents a hateful awakening to a sober, everyday, gross reality”. Every woman needs to break away from such inane fantasy and accept responsibility for herself and the actions that she chooses to take.

She must deal with the brutal reality that comes with the loss of innocence. She must take her life into her own hands. If she happens to fail, she will have no one to blame, but herself. Consequentially, if she earns success, this achievement will be earned by her own merits alone. Success and control over one’s own life can only be accomplished if these women educate themselves outside of home. More plainly said, “Burning dinner is not incompetence, but war. ” A woman’s ability to tend her family rather than herself should not be used as a measure of her personal worth.
A woman needs to show that her abilities can surpass those needed to carry out menial tasks at home. When Torvald calls her a “blind, incompetent child”, Nora assertively responds, “I must learn to be competent, Torvald”. Because Nora was always submitted herself to Torvald’s expectations, she is not aware of her own capacity. Only by leaving Torvald and her seemingly happy home, will she have enough focus on her own person to discover her own potential for success. The family is a microcosm of society; any problem that can arise within this institution is a direct reflection of a problem faced by society.

Ibsen takes advantage of this knowledge and focuses on women and their shackled autonomy. He certainly is a master at presenting us a glimpse of ourselves in our daily life experiences, and leaving us questioning society in the end. By using Nora as the protagonist in A Doll’s House , he shows people that a hint of selfishness is much better than blind altruism, that choosing to reject this knowledge will only be self-destructive to a person, and embracing this knowledge can help one break out of society’s manacles and into a quest for freedom.

Father of Realism

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