Victims of Social Mores Term Paper

Pages: 3 (1238 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Literature

Victims of Social Mores or Victims of Character? Three Character Studies from 19th Century Fiction

Does society make the man -- or woman -- or does the character of the individual determine his or her fate? On one hand, it is possible to read the protagonists of the stories "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" and "The Lady with the Dog" as well as the title heroine of Ibsen's drama "Hedda Gabler" as pawns of social forces beyond their control, mere victims of the circumstances of the times. Ivan Ilyich spends his life in a miserable, bureaucratic environment and devotes himself to social-climbing and impressing his superiors. He is encouraged, almost from birth, to play the role of a fawning, sycophant to succeed in his career and to provide for his family. He does so without question, allowing himself to be swept along by the tide of custom, rather than resisting it. As early as his days "at school he had done things which had formerly seemed to him very horrid and made him feel disgusted with himself when he did them; but when later on he saw that such actions were done by people of good position and that they did not regard them as wrong, he was able not exactly to regard them as right, but to forget about them entirely or not be at all troubled at remembering them" (Tolstoy, "The Death of Ivan Ilyich," Chapter II).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Victims of Social Mores or Victims of Assignment

Anton Chekhov's "The Lady with the Dog" has a female protagonist named Anna who is married to a man she does respect, a man very similar to Tolstoy's unattractive central character, a man she calls a flunky. She unexpectedly falls in love with a man while she is on a seaside vacation in Yalta who is not her husband, a man who is also trapped in a loveless marriage named Gurov. Anna and Gurov married before they knew what love truly could feel like, but the live in a society where divorce is a kind of social death. Ibsen's the gun-brandishing Hedda Gabler seems to regret that she was not born a man and chafes at the societal and biological constructs of her society that instruct women that their greatest purpose in life is to serve their husbands and have children. Hedda desires to serve a man as intelligent as she is, but also wishes to conform to societal dictates. Her sense of propriety is so strong she willingly slights her in-laws, the Tessmans, when they transgress mild social customs and thus do not meet her aristocratic standards. Then, Hedda, upon hearing that her husband's academic rival has produced a brilliant manuscript, manipulates the man into thinking his manuscript is lost, encourages him to turn to drinking again, and because she does not tell him she has the manuscript, indirectly causes him to commit suicide.

Tolstoy seems to endorse the idea that society plays a guiding role in shaping the moral life of human beings, as he begins his tale of Ivan Ilyich's life: "Ivan Ilyich's life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible" (Tolstoy, Chapter II). Living life according to societal norms of what it means to lead a good, wealthy, materially prosperous and socially admired life is a path to misery for all the protagonists of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Ibsen. However, it would be inaccurate to say that these authors' different characters do not have a role in their own destruction. Ivan Ilyich chooses and initially takes delight in behaving in the way he does, and seeks material success as proof of his spiritual worth. "Ivan Ilyich felt himself abandoned by everyone, and that they regarded his position with a salary of 3,500 rubles… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Victims of Social Mores" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Victims of Social Mores.  (2007, July 23).  Retrieved September 27, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Victims of Social Mores."  23 July 2007.  Web.  27 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Victims of Social Mores."  July 23, 2007.  Accessed September 27, 2021.