Family represents different things to people. For some people, families are a place of refuge and acceptance. They are assured that their families will stand by them through their successes and challenges in life. They cherish the thoughts and memories of their families, for they are often pleasant. For other people, families represent obligations and loyalty. They feel that they are bound by the ties they have. They have to defend their families from all enemies, whether real or perceived. For other people, families are a source of constant pain. It represents suffering and abuse. The experiences they have had with their families makes them desire a different kind of life. Some people find solace in their families. However, others are tied down and they long for freedom. The diverse sentiments concerning families are present in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House. The two plays the power and influence of families in a person’s life. The feelings that the characters have towards their families inform the decisions that the people end up making.

The story of Hamlet by William Shakespeare is about Hamlet the prince of Denmark. The young man is unhappy because of his mother’s decision to marry Claudius despite the fact that she has just buried her husband. The young Hamlet learns that his uncle is responsible for his father’s death. His father’s ghost appears to him and it reveals the method that Claudius used to kill his brother. The ghost tells him that he has to avenge his father’s death. Hamlet comes up with a plan on how he will achieve this. He pretends to be mad so that others will question him less. From the time the ghost appears to him until his death, Hamlet occupies his mind with the single thought of vengeance. This becomes his sole mission in life.

Henrik Ibsen’s story of A Doll’s House tells the story of Nora and her family. She is the wife of Torvald, and she has two children. It is clear that her husband does not see her on the same level as him. This is because of the way he treats her. He has clear distinctions of gender roles, and he believes that the woman’s place is in the home. However, this only seems to apply to his wife, as he is willing to give Nora’s friend a position in the bank. He is more concerned about appearances and upholding societal expectations. When he realizes that his wife committed a crime by forging a signature, he becomes furious and insults her. This exposes his superficial nature. In addition, the incidence makes Nora realize that she does not love him as much as she used to. She decides to leave her home and her children so that she can discover her identity. This decision seems scandalous at the time because people did not expect that a woman would leave her home.

The loyalty and sense of obligation that people have towards their families make them commit to making decisions or taking actions that do not necessarily make them happy. They feel that they have to fulfill their obligations and they end up sacrificing their happiness. This is the case with Hamlet. He is angered by the fact that his uncle is responsible for his father’s death. His father’s ghost appears to him and asks him to avenge his death. However, Hamlet spends most of the time contemplating and planning. It is clear that he does not seek to avenge his father’s death by killing his uncle. He chooses to sacrifice his happiness and he even abandons any plans he had with Ophelia. The same sense of obligation compels Laertes to avenge his father and sister’s death. Laertes plans his attacks and he succeeds by killing Hamlet in the end. Although he does seek revenge, his anger is driven more by the fact that he is avenging his family.

The same sense of loyalty and obligation are present in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Mrs. Linde sacrifices her one chance of being happy with the man she loves because she feels obligated to provide for her family. She loved Krogstad but he was penniless. Instead, she chose to marry a man who had money. Mrs. Linde explains to Nora that she had to take care of her sick mother and her brothers. Presently, her life is empty because she does not know what to do. She spent most of her time fulfilling her family’s desires that she neglected her own life. Her visit to Nora is a way of seeking a new beginning in life. In the early years of their marriage, Nora felt obligated to take care of her husband. She took a loan without his knowledge so that she could sponsor his trip to Italy following his sickness. She has had to work in secret so that she could repay the loan.

Families are a major influence to a person’s character and they determine the decisions that people make in their lives. People are shaped by their families. By the time children mature, their sense of right and wrong are largely dependent on what they know from their parents and siblings. Some people choose to abandon what they have known since they were children and they adopt new ways of thinking and new behaviors. Societal expectations are especially strong sources of influence because they are also a reflection of what the family expects. The society expects a person to stay with their families and to take care of them irrespective of what they have to sacrifice. Nora’s perceptions of family were formed in her early childhood.

The love that people have for their families can make a person do things that he or she would not necessarily do under different circumstances. Ibsen and Shakespeare illustrate this by showing how people end up lying and deceiving each other for the sake of their families. They do this to protect their families and provide for them. Nora commits forgery for the sake of her husband’s health. Laertes teams up with Claudius and they plan how he will kill Hamlet. In many cases, people choose to defy their families, especially their parents, to marry for love. This is not the case with Mrs. Linde. Her concern and love for her family makes her leave the man she loves and she ends up marrying someone else.

Members of the same family have different perceptions and feelings towards their families. Some of them will do anything for the sake of their family’s happiness. However, others will choose to act based on their self-interests. They are not always willing to return any favors or show any sense of loyalty. They are more concerned with appearances and their love for the other family members is superficial. This is the case with Torvald. He reprimands his wife when he learns that she took a secret loan and forged her father’s signature. He does not consider the fact that she did this as a way of showing her love and care. He only focuses on the negative. He tells her that he does not want her to raise his children. Torvald is so focused on the externalities that he does not consider any other perspective. Nora showed her love for her husband when she took the loan. Torvald shows his concern for what the society will think by telling Nora that she can continue living in the house, even though he would not consider her his wife. These sentiments contrast deeply with Nora’s feelings for her husband. Claudius and Gertrude do not have the same concerns about family as Hamlet and his father does. Gertrude acts quickly when her husband, King Hamlet dies. She agrees to marry Claudius even though she has not mourned her husband for long. It is clear that she is more interested in maintaining her position as the wife of a king, instead of committing to, and showing loyalty towards her first husband. Claudius does not treasure family at all. This is seen in his decision to murder his brother. He is more interested in acquiring power and wealth and he does not care much about his family.

The responsibilities that people have towards their families can limit them. They can hinder them from achieving their goals in life. People have to consider the impact that their actions will have on those close to them. Some people are fortunate enough to recover their freedom and discover their identity. Others do not get the chance to enjoy their lives in their own terms. Mrs. Linde and Nora face a similar situation in the sense that they both yearn for freedom. Mrs. Linde realized her freedom when her mother died. She had lived her life taking care of other people. Nora has to make the decision to leave her children under her husband’s care. Doing this is the only way for her to realize her freedom. She does not know her identity owing to the fact that she has always been under someone’s care. Her husband considers himself a second father to her. She does not have the freedom she yearns to do anything. Nora does not realize that she needs this freedom until her husband insults her. It occurs to her that she has a fantasized view of her marriage. Hamlet does not have a way of being liberated from familial obligations. As an obedient and dutiful son, he has to fulfill his father’s desire even though he seems hesitant to do it. He is liberated from his life’s mission in the end. Although he manages to kill Claudius, he also dies from the poisoned sword.

Families are important because they provide some stability in a person’s life. However, they are not always a source of comfort and joy. Some people have to sacrifice for the sake of the happiness of others. They feel tied down because of the responsibilities they have. They cannot abandon their families because they have developed loyalty. Societal expectations contribute to these sentiments and perceptions. The society expects people to stand by his family. Many people are able to realize their freedom in the end, as in the case with Nora and Mrs. Linde. However, for some people, such as Hamlet, freedom does not come so easily. They have to sacrifice until the end. Families are important. However, they also involve a lot of self-sacrifice.



Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Arc Manor LLC, 2009. Print

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Huge Print Press, 1849. Print

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