Literature is a Construct of Reality

I haven’t written in a while because I’ve been all but consumed with a grade 11 English course I’ve been teaching through eLearning. While teaching, a lot of time was spent on symbolism. Students find it difficult to understand that novels are not real life – they are constructions of real life, which means that everything in everything you read is there for a reason. Case in point are characters.

Characters are not real people. They are given desires, physical characteristics and relationships just like people, but they do not develop as a result of natural elements in combination with the nurturing environments in which they are raised. In my class, we discussed “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen. In the play, Nora is a typical Victorian trophy wife with a twist – she’s unhappy with looking pretty and doing what’s expected by the men in her life; Nora wants something more. Were many women in Nora’s position unhappy in their lives, want to own their own property, make their own decisions, have the vote? Most definitely. Did many of them leave their husbands and children to try to have their fantasy lives on their own? Probably not. Nora is a construct in that she proves Ibsen’s point that women should want something more for themselves, and that they should make that desire known.

Likewise, Torvald is a construct of the typical Victorian man. He does not verbally abuse Nora with his condescending names, and by treating her like a child as this was the way he was raised to treat women. By law, women were infantilized. Like children are often treated as the property of their parents, women were first the property of their fathers and then of their husbands. Torvald works hard to keep Nora in the lifestyle to which she is accustomed. He gives her money when she asks though he teases her about it and asks her not to eat macaroons because they didn’t have the dentistry to repair rotten teeth we do today and it would have been expensive and ugly. When Nora comes clean about Krogstad, he reacts as most men would, I think, worried about what it meant for him. Given time, Torvald might have come around, because, at his core, he does think he loves Nora and is petrified at a life without her, but Nora doesn’t give him the chance to have time to think and formulate a plan as she has, for she leaves immediately after dropping the Krogstad bomb.

Funny they way how these blogposts evolve, isn’t it? I hadn’t meant to write so much about “A Doll’s House”, but I guess I had a lot to say. I’ll save my construct analysis of a character for the next post.

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About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

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