MIDDLE CLASS MORALITY





MIDDLE CLASS MORALITY

Values and morals of the Victorian era are quite different than those that our society upholds today. The satirical plays, A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, and Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, examine the problems with certain beliefs held by the people, both men and women, of the Victorian age. Furthermore, the people in general didn’t not just hold certain morals, but the different classes in the Victorian society also held their own beliefs on moral code. Of which, the middle class beliefs are most closely examined in both plays. Men and women were expected by others in Victorian society to uphold certain moral behaviors. These expectations caused many problems for the individual that upheld them by limiting their behavior, and overshadowing how the person really thinks he or she should act or what he or she really believes.
Men in the Victorian era were anticipated by women and other men to do certain things that would ‘qualify’ them to be an accomplished masculine figure. The first ‘requirement’ is that the man must support and protect his woman. In A Doll’s House Torvald, Nora’s husband, most definitely feels his obligation to protect his wife, whether she likes it or not. "Do you know, Nora, I have often wished that you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life’s blood, and everything, for your sake"(Ibsen 58). Torvald hopes that one day he will be able to show his manly and virtuous side by protecting his wife, most likely so he will be praised for it. Torvald also feels that his woman must be protected because she most definitely cannot fend for herself. "Aha! so my obstinate little woman is obliged to get someone to come to her rescue?" (Ibsen 27). This is the exact, narrow-minded view many Victorian men displayed. Also, in Pygmalion men have the obligation to protect women. This time the women are seen expecting the man to care for them, like in Freddy’s case. "You really are very helpless, Freddy. Go again; and don’t come back until you have found a cab"(Shaw 574). Because Freddy is a male, he is expected by his mother and sister to find a cab for them in the rain when there are none in sight. Even on the streets men will defend women who they don’t even know. "What business is it of yours? You mind your own affairs....Nice thing a girl cant shelter from the rain without being insulted,"(Shaw 576). Bystanders noticing the flower girl is upset by the note taker, they defend her, if she were a man they would have expected her to fend for herself. The second requirement that makes a man a man in Victorian times is his perfect family. "There they are!...Look at them, Christine! Aren’t they darlings?"(Ibsen 19). Nora is showing off her perfect little children to her friend Mrs. Linde. "Yes, take a good look at her. I think she is worth looking at. Isn’t she charming, Mrs. Linde?"(Ibsen 53). Torvald is now showing off his prize trophy, his wife, as if Mrs. Linde really cares. With a perfect wife and children Torvald can be seen as a true hard-working, good man.
Yet, many times these seemingly good values are flawed underneath. There are many problems with these values imposed on men in Victorian times. In the case of protecting his woman, we see Torvald’s true ‘colors’ in the end of the play after he discovers Nora’s criminal act. "All these eight years-she who was my joy and pride-a hypocrite, a liar-worse, worse-a criminal! I ought to have suspected that something of the sort would happen"(Ibsen 59-60). Torvald himself is really the hypocrite, wasn’t he longing for something to protect his wife against? Now that the time is come he blames her for burdening him to have to make the situation right. Nora has real guts, guts more than her overbearing husband, in that she never has really needed his help, she, in fact, has helped him a great deal and has never asked to be glorified for it, as her husband does. And poor Freddy, he simply followed his mother’s orders unquestioning. When he returns with a cab to rescue his mother and sister they have found