The following is an essay
I wrote over the summer of 2002
as a pre-school assignment. I'm submitting it to the database as part of the whole "Node Your Homework
" schtick. The prompt is as follows:
Read Medea, Joan of Lorraine, and A Doll's House. Using all three main characters, write an essay examining their strong a weak points, and comparing and contrasting their roles. Limit your paper to 600 - 800 words.
It's due August 13th. I'll post the grade here when it's returned.
Update 11/01/01: It was just returned, and I earned an 82. Grrr. Maybe you shouldn't use it as a springboard for ideas.
While Medea, Joan, and Nora are all very headstrong women, between them are more differences than similarities; and though the three share the extrinsicality of obstinance, each persona is utilized to present a very different role.
Medea, the protagonist of Robinson Jeffers' play of the same name, is a vengeful termagant, stricken with grief and wanting nothing but to vindicate Jason's deeds. To her credit, though, she is quite wily, and in possession of one of the most impressive acumen ever given to a character of her type. So deep is her animosity towards Jason that she goes to such lengths as parricide (killing her children, who are merely "pawns of her agony") to extract revenge on her former husband. She does not stop there, though. She despoils him not only of two children, but also of a wife, a father-in-law, and a kingdom. For all her stoicalness, though, she has one weakness, and it happens to be the focus of all her malice: Jason. Other persons matter not to her; any emotions she may feel for them are fleeting. Despite this, Jason, of all the individuals in the world, has managed to cultivate in Medea an enmity so overwhelming that she spends every waking moment devising new means with which to enact her sick justice.
In Maxwell Anderson's Joan of Lorraine, Joan plays the role of a maturing jeune fille on a quest to save her country; unfortunately, things are not that simple. Along the way, she is forced to face some of the harshest of life's inequities and participate in many battles. She must battle with France's enemies, she must battle with personal antagonists, and she must battle with herself and her ideas about faith. One of Joan's distinguishing features is her narrow-mindedness; she does not stop to think if her cause is right, or if persuading people to join her cause might not be the most moral of things to do. It never enters her mind that the decisions she makes (or that God has told her to make) might be wrong or bring about needless harm. Whether this is a curse or a blessing is disputable; one undeniable Achilles' heel, though, is her nonage. In her youthful naivety, she is quick to be proud - this is a fatal flaw, as it procures her a spot on the stake, bringing her short life to a rather hot end.
Nora Helmer is the very epitome of a reprobate in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. Nora is unique in that her one outstanding métier is also her most destructive shortcoming. This quality is lying, something Nora is more than adept at (though she seems to have a knack for irony as well.) The first word Nora speaks is "hide," which sums up her character absolutely perfectly; she lies to everyone about everything. She lies to her husband, she lies to her best friend, and she lies to herself. The irony in all of this is that, while she believes that her lies benefit all persons involved, she ends up doing more harm than good. Her unknowing husband, Torvald (the target of most of her deception and concealment), has a penchant for irony, too: one of his pet names for his wife is "my little squirrel." Quite a fitting name, as Nora covets the truth the way a squirrel covets his acorns. Nora is also very proud, something that may partially explain her constant need to spread untruths. Said pride is also the cause of the eventual schism that comes between herself and her family, which ends with her leaving her house to seek out a life of her own.
The differences between the three aforementioned protagonists are indeed innumerable, but they all share one inadequacy besides the already mentioned stubbornness: It seems they are all stricken with fickleness, the crippling disease inherent to womanhood. The symptoms of this disease are easy to spot in these three women, as they are in any woman - they can be seen in Medea when she flips back and forth between the decision to let her children live and the decision to kill them. They can be seen in Joan when she renounces her fate, then accepts it...then renounces it...then accepts it once more, and they can be seen in Nora when she undergoes the drastic change from optimist ("He must not see the letter! I must do something about it.") to fatalist ("There sits the letter. Nothing can be done now.") While it is unfortunate that these women must suffer this malady, it is, regrettably, intrinsic and, thus, inescapable.
No, it's not a wonderful essay. But keep in mind, I was limited to 800 words -- not an easy task for someone who can't shut up. Anyway, all works are copyright ME and if you use this without my permission I WILL KILL YOU. Use it as a springboard for ideas.