In realist drama emphasis is placed on the depth of characters. It is characterized for its non-stereotypical characters that enhance the realism of the play. The past of characters has a great deal to do with defining a characters personality and conduct. This essay will examine with the aid of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams and A Dolls House by Henrik Ibsen the way the past of characters enlarges and enriches character portrayal and evaluate the use and importance of characters lives prior to the events of both plays to explain or complicate events included in the plays.
In Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche Dubois is presented as a faded, extravagant, flirtatious women of questionable honesty. She is very concerned of the image she is seen by and what others may think of her. We find out during the play that she has been married very young to an equally young man. She had suffered a great disappointment and confusion because her husband had not wanted her on their honeymoon. Later she discovered her husband to be a homosexual.
Her immediate response had been one of pretended ease but later in the evening she told Alan how he disgusted her. He ended up shooting himself over his young wifes words. This event may explain why Blanche has such a need for affection from men in any form. She wants to be noticed and desired, [Men] dont even admit your existence unless they are making love to you.  She looks for love in all the wrong places with a naive desire to believe that what she was obtaining was love and admiration, not purely an interest in pleasure.
She voluntarily escapes to her own reality where she is all she desires to be and all adore and have a high regard for her. This she does during her stay at the flamingo, which gave her quite a reputation that caught up with her in Elysian Fields. She lost her job for her intimate relationship with a student and still at her sisters house flirts with delivery boys and Stanleys friends. Henrik Ibsens introduces Nora as a childish compulsive shopper; the value of money seems a non-existing notion in her mind.
However, this is customary in a patriarchal society. She appears capricious and somewhat dishonest with her husband. Thanks to Noras conversations with Dr. Rank Ibsen transmits to the audience that Nora has always been treated as a doll. She preferred the maids company as a child she could act more as herself than her fathers with whom she acted as she was expected to. Later she became Torvalds doll in a similar way, I was handed from Papa to you. You organized everything according to your taste, and I picked up the same taste as you. ]
As the play develops we find out that Nora is a lot more devious than we thought. Apparently Nora had not only borrowed money without her husbands consent which at the time was illegal but also forged her fathers signature in order to obtain it. The reason behind this act is the health of her husband. In order for Torvald to survive it was necessary for the family to move to Italy. This would not have been possible without the money. She commits this illegal feat out of love and devotion to Torvald.
Later during the play we discover that Torvald is firing the lawyer who lent money to Nora. Krogstad the lawyer threatens to inform Torvald of Noras illegal deed if she didnt convince her husband to come back on his decision. Nora attempts to change Torvalds mind but fails. She begins to fall in her own ideal reality; her loving husband will save the honor of the deceased martyr. These two characters Nora and Blanche have a lot in common. Both lie on various occasions to the ones they love. Blanche however lies almost compulsively such is her involvement in her created reality.
Nora had idealized the way her husband would deal with the shame and legal problems of her fraudulous contract and created like Blanche an illusory reality. It is crucial to learn of Blanches and Noras past to fully understand decisions they make and the way they behave in certain situations or with certain people. For instance, after knowing about her traumatic experience with alan it can be somewhat understood why Blanche would need to invent a dream-world to live in and have such a need in feeling loved. Furthermore Stanleys view of Blanche is of a lying, vain girl whos been with all too many men.
He doesnt care why she is like this all he wants is to get her out of his life. Stanley sees Blanche how the audience would if they had not the knowledge of Blanches past. In Noras case it is important to realize that Nora sine childhood had been following appearances. Her father had wanted her as a doll and so had her husband. It also shows that although she always complied to her fathers expectations she still preferred the company of the maids with whom she could be more herself. The knowledge of Noras past may also to some extent explain why she lies with such ease.
Probably since the borrowing of the money lies have come more and more easily to Nora. In order to achieve what she wanted and keep out of trouble from her husband she was forced to lie. The information we gain about Nora putting her reputation and her husbands at risk to save Torvalds life also prove that she loves him dearly and would do all she could to aid him any way she could. The past of characters enrich any play as it constructs the personality of the character. A character does not spring from the oblivion with a completely righteous or evil personality not in realist drama that is.
It is shaped and chiseled by living through good and bad experiences. Finding out the past of characters not online makes the audience understand the characters reactions, decisions and actions but also gives them more depth makes them more human. It adds realism to the play as the playwright introduces real people with backgrounds, flaws, positive aspects, sorrows and joys. The characters are therefore non-stereotypical and emphasizes on this point, for the plays transmit real messages and critics that are meant to be thought about and pondered.