Therese Raquin

The Hollowness of Conventional 19th Century Christian Morality in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll’s House and Emile Zola's Therese Raquin.

Both Ibsen and Zola were firm believers in portraying their characters and works from a realistic perspective. Zola founded the naturalist movement in fiction and shared the same general perspective on society as Ibsen, who was the first of a new generation of naturalistic modern playwrights. In both Therese Raquin and A Doll’s House, the alleged central place of Christianity in 19th century European society is indirectly subverted through subtle suggestions of its irrelevance, or lack of importance, in the characters’ lives. Because of the already morally controversial nature of both Ibsen’s play and Zola’s novel, thanks to their subversion of traditional gender roles, an obvious critique of the Church or of normative religious opinion in the 19th century would have landed both writers in difficult situations. Thus, by use of indirect yet carefully aimed references, both Ibsen and Zola allude to Christianity as a hollow institution, serving merely as a specious societal value, which is largely ignored in practice. Zola, coming from Catholic France, portrays the Church as an impersonal, mechanical tyranny looming in the background of his characters’ lives. Ibsen, coming from Protestant Norway, takes a more direct yet...

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