Learner Portfolio: A Doll’s House Research Notes

Topic 1: Henrik Ibsen

– Find an image of Ibsen.

– Find some information about his upbringing and education.

Ibsen was born in a poor family but managed to prepare for university examinations and write plays simultaneously. He started his career in the field of theater; eventually, the death of his theater was the liberation of Ibsen as a playwright.

– Describe the three phases of his dramatic works.

  1. Verse and stage: written in verse and modeled after romantic historical tragedy
  2. Social realism and prose drama: increased focus on social injustice
  3. Individual alone and disengaged: contention among craftmanship and life

– Explain why he is considered the pioneer of modern drama.

Ibsen brought a new stage of moral analysis that went along with a realistic middle-class background. He is considered the pioneer of modern drama because of the political nature of his plays. Ibsen’s controversial plots made him the father of realism.

– Explain two literary elements in which he is known to excel and the major theme of most of his plays.

His plays are known for Money and power are two of the most prevalent themes of Ibsen. Dialogue and symbolism are Ibsen’s strengths; psychological issues are also common in Ibsen’s characters.


Topic 2: Norway

– Find and include a map of Norway and its location in Europe.

– Describe Norway’s climate.

Norway has a much milder climate than other parts of the world at the same latitude.

– Briefly explain Norway’s government and economy.

Norway is a constitutional hereditary monarchy and has a stable economy.

– Include information about Norway’s traditional culture.

Norwegians usually eat a quick lunch and has a strong emphasis on modesty. The feeling of being one nation is strong, along with individualistic and egalitarian attitudes.


Topic 3: Gender Roles and Social Classes in the Victorian Era

– List the years included in the Victorian Era.


– Discuss whether society was patriarchal or matriarchal and why.

The society was patriarchal. Women were considered inferior in the society as they were dominated by men in the society.

– Describe the characteristics of the “ideal woman.”

An ideal Victorian woman was expected to take care of the family and devote the majority of her time into domestic activities. A woman was considered the family’s possession/claim.

– Explain the societal expectations of each of the following people:

– upper-middle-class woman and man

– working-class woman and man

– a suffragette

– Briefly explain how the nineteenth-century feminist movement differs from modern feminism.

The first wave of feminism (19th century) demanded women’s enfranchisement, the abolition of coverture, and access to stable education. This went against the conventional belief that women were naturally located in the private sphere of the household and not fit for public. However, the modern analog already has enfranchisement established. Moreover, it has grown globally, caring for women in other developing nations.


Topic 4: Marriage in the Victorian Era

– Explain whether or not it was a romantic bond or economic institution and why.

Marriage at that time was mostly the man’s responsibility. To be considered elegant and fitting in to the status quo, marriage was carried out by women disregarding their affection towards their partners. It was a romantic bond to some extent, as it had deeper societal and gender-related implications.

– Describe the expectations and responsibilities of women and men.

Men: works all day, earns enough money to pay the rent and provide necessities and food.

Women: Bearing and raising children, taking care of the house chores.

– Find and include any publications with instructions on how to be a good wife or husband.

“He should always be ready to sacrifice his present personal pleasure to the future well-being of those who have the first and best claim to his regard.”

“The same law which imposes upon the husband the duty of supporting his wife, gives him a general and paramount claim to her obedience.”

– Explain if the structure or responsibilities within marriage differed according to social class and how.

The structure or responsibilities within marriage was fairly rigid and conservative across all social class.


Topic 5: Realism

– Define the term and describe the characteristics of “theatrical realism.”

Attempt of playwrights to mirror reality on stage. The playwrights intended for the audience to see themselves on the stage without fanfare.

– Briefly describe some nineteenth-century social, economic, and political influences that may have led to the birth of theatrical realism/modern theater.

The disparity between the rich and the poor was significant. Social classes emerged, and gender roles became more pronounced than ever before. Hence, discontent citizens were in search of ways to relate with one another. It was marketing in a sense that the playwrights knew that the audience would sympathize with the plot and the character.

– List the theatrical elements of theatrical realism.

The plot dealt with common problems. There was a stronger emphasis on behavior and decisions of characters through more detailed and intricate dialogues.

– Include some titles and photos from plays that are considered “realist.”

“A Streetcar Named Desire” “Pygmalion”

Gordon Parks Photo Commentary

Gordon Parks, Lt. George Knox. 332nd Fighter Group training at Selfridge Field, Michigan, October 1943, gelatin silver print mounted on board with caption, image: 25.4 × 26.35 cm (10 × 10 3/8 in.), sheet: 27.31 × 26.35 cm (10 3/4 × 10 3/8 in.), The Gordon Parks Foundation, GP02596. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

From the rudder, tail wing, and the United States Army logo livery in the background, one can infer that the photo is shot at a military airfield. The focus point lies on the face of the male in the center, who is black; his uniform, oxygen mask, and parachute straps reveal that he is a pilot. Through the usage of asymmetry, color, and perspective, Gordon Parks expresses the pilot’s urgent character and elicits various emotions from the audience, connecting to the social issue of racism.

To begin with, Parks captures the dynamics of the setting through asymmetry. The pilot is slighting bending his body towards the cockpit, and the fighter gradually takes up proportion towards the left. Therefore, the centerline of the photo is distorted, creating a movement towards the top left corner of the image. Moreover, his crunched posture, along with his annoyed facial expression and firm hands, reveal how the strap he is adjusting is not stretchable. This has the effect of adding a sense of reality to the photo: the pilot is unbothered by the camera and carries on tackling the belt. Therefore, the pilot’s insistent character is dynamically expressed through asymmetry; this may allude to how the Black has remained firm despite prejudices.

Furthermore, the photographer employs a grayscale to add a sense of gravity and balance. The photo relies on various combinations of black and white for color, which has the effect of simplifying the composition of the print. This is because a monochromatic palette sifts out distracting colors and allows the viewers to immerse into the subject’s essence. The color scheme’s simplicity juxtaposes the complexity of the subject’s garment and the geometric shapes in the background; hence, an equilibrium is established within the frame. Besides, the grayscale symbolizes how the White and the Black must converge and create a balance. This message is not only restrained to the context of racism in America: Parks is globally appealing to collectivism.

Additionally, Parks exhibits reverence towards the Black through a low vantage point. Based on how the plane is slanted in the background, it is evident that the photo is shot from a low angle. In fact, the pilot himself does not seem to be perfectly parallel to the camera. A low perspective has the effect of looking up towards the subject, which is a sign of esteem. Hence, Parks shows respect towards the black pilot and, more importantly, the black race the pilot is representing. This photo is a call to action: that more the viewers must be cognizant of the ingrained discrimination and treat the Black with respect. Thus, the intention of the photo is to raise awareness of the systematic racism in the United States.

To conclude, Gordon Parks develops the theme of racism by employing asymmetry, color, and perspective. The photographer leaves the viewers pondering by highlighting a contradiction: the federal government is unsupportive of the black pilots, but it depends on them for defense. Hence, the viewers are also inspired to reflect their own words and actions.

Scene Analysis from Hero

Zhang Yi Mou’s 2002 film Hero explores the relativity of truth. The movie starts by summoning Nameless to Emperor Qin’s palace. Nameless is a warrior who claims to have defeated the three assassins – Sky, Broken Sword, and Flying Snow – that Qin had been preoccupied about; the story of Nameless fighting the assassins is told but the emperor suspects its validity. Hence, the film is divided into three major sections, each coded with a different color: Nameless’s anecdote, Qin’s interpretation, and the truth. The concluding scene from 1:39:20 to 1:42:20 is where Nameless, who attempts to murder Qin but aborts it to reinforce “peace under heaven”, is executed by Qin’s archers. In this denouement, the director employs cuts of close-up shots, imperative diction, and first-person perspective to convey the theme of destiny and the characters’ emotions to the audience.

To begin with, the scene utilizes cuts of close-up shots to contrast the emotions of ambivalence and certainty. As the soldiers draw their bows and the servants ask for execution, a close-up shot of Qin is alternated with that of Nameless. Nameless seems to accept his faith and stand confident in front of the archers whereas the emperor hesitates to order the execution. This dichotomy has the effect of building tension between the two characters, which allows the audience to gain insight into the complexity of the conflict. Moreover, these cuts foreshadow Nameless’s death because the blurred background in Nameless’s shot is a wall. Since Nameless has arrived at an impasse, he must submit to his fate and such emotion is effectively expressed through a close-up shot.

Furthermore, imperative diction is used in the film to demonstrate how Qin has no other choice but to command an execution. The servants are in indistinguishable black robes, symbolizing that they unanimously believe that Nameless must be executed. As Qin shows signs of hesitation, the servants then coerce the emperor to order the execution in a commanding tone: “Show no mercy… execute him!” As the servants outnumber Qin, the imperative phrases imply that they are likely to revolt if Qin forgives Nameless, which is an undesirable outcome. Thus, the audience gets a better understanding of why the emperor is in an indecisive state.

Additionally, a first-person perspective with respect to Nameless is employed to show his approaching fate and firmness. The symmetric shot shows a myriad of arrows falling upon Nameless. The first-person shot has the effect of emphasizing the number and speed of the arrows, eliciting fear from the audience. This scene shows what Nameless might have felt in his last moments and depicts how he was willing to withstand such horror for a greater cause. Thus, Nameless’s firm motivation, the fear he would have felt, and his destiny are shown with a first perspective shot,

To conclude, the utilization of cuts of close-up shots, imperative diction, and first-person perspective effectively portray the theme of destiny and the characters’ emotions at different points throughout the scene. Zhang Yi Mou tries to remind us how sacrifices must be made to uphold an important principle: peace for the majority and posterity.