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Minor Characters And Progression Of The Plots English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1719 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Minor characters are not usually the focal point of a literary piece but they are an integral part of the plot as they help in its progression and thus cause the denouement. They can cause the progression of the plot by catalyzing the actions of major characters. In some cases, they can cause the main conflict of the play but they also often help in its resolution. In Antigone by Sophocles and A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, there are several minor characters that help in the development of the plot.

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Ismene from Antigone and Mrs.Linde from A Doll’s House are both minor characters that are stereotypical image of women of their respective societies in those times. They are the foils to Antigone and Nora; they contrast directly with the major characters and thus highlight the radicalism of the actions performed by Antigone and Nora. Ismene is Antigone’s sister and she is exceedingly different from Antigone. While Antigone is a strong and brave character, Ismene is the ideal Greek woman of the time. She follows all of the rules set up by Creon and is flabbergasted when Antigone suggests that they bury their brother even when it has been forbidden by him. “What? You intend to bury him, when it has been forbidden to the city?” [1] This quote shows how Ismene is the type of character who does not rebel against authority. Ismene’s behavior and stringent following of the laws help to show us the uniqueness and courage of Antigone. Greek women were not given equal status with men and to ignore the orders of a man was regarded as an outrageous and immoral thing to do. From the early stages of Mrs.Linde’s conversation with Nora it is quite apparent that she is a woman who has suffered a great deal; a direct contrast with Nora who seems to have a picture perfect life. Mrs.Linde says “The boys have jobs, they don’t need me either.” [2] to show how she has suffered and this shows the audience that Nora has had a relatively easy life compared to Mrs.Linde or so it appears. “Sewing, embroidering…Nora, you’re a babe in arms.” [3] This quote shows how Nora is perceived by the public. Mrs.Linde’s statement “My mother was still alive: bedridden, helpless. I’d two younger brothers to look after” [4] introduces Nora to the concept of suffering and tolerance which she seems to be oblivious to.

Greek women were not given equal status with men and to ignore the orders of a man was regarded as an outrageous and immoral thing to do.. Ismene at the commencement of the play shows us the closeness of blood relatives in the time by the way in which the two sisters address each other. What this does is it transports the audience to the setting and helps the audience relate to the story thus making the plot that much more moving. Ismene and Mrs.Linde, the two foils, show support to Antigone and Nora by giving them the conviction to do the controversial deeds they perform. However, Mrs.Linde gives Nora continued support; Ismene only shows support later on.

In Antigone, Haemon is the son of Creon and he is in love with Antigone. At first he shows that he agrees with his father’s decision and he even says “Father, I am yours. You have good judgment, and the orders you give me I shall follow. I shall value no marriage more highly than your good guidance.” [5] Haemon appears to be a very respectful son; one who listens to his father no matter what. In Greek society parents were revered; especially the father. To be disobedient was considered blasphemy. Haemon plays an important role in the story as it adds to the subplot and helps bring out the nastiness in Creon for the audience to see. Haemon brings out cultural aspects such as respect for elders. His argument with his father also helps the audience understand the role and treatment in society with this quote. As the conversation between the two progresses Haemon lets his father have a piece of his mind. He says “Yes, because I see you mistaken about what is just.” [6] This quote is in direct contrast with the previous one. This quote shows that Haemon is a strong, sturdy character that is not afraid to stand up to his father and deal with the repercussions that may take place by doing so.

Krogstad from A Doll’s House and Teiresias from Antigone too act as foils to Helmer and Creon respectively. Also Krogstad and Teiresias help change Helmer and Creon. Creon and Helmer are similar characters as they both believe in male dominance and tend to refuse advice; they are proud. Teiresias and Krogstad make them change. Krogstad causes change indirectly through a letter while Teiresias directly changes Creon with his prophecy. Creon goes from headstrong to humble and realizes his mistake. Helmer on the other hand even after finding out the truth does not change or realize his mistake. Instead there is a change in Nora. She goes from childish to strong. Helmer and Krogstad both care about reputation and both are willing to take revenge, however Krogstad changes because of Mrs.Linde’s love. Even though Nora loves Helmer it’s not enough to change him. Helmer’s obstinate nature is highlighted by Krogstad’s willingness to change.

Krogstad is the antagonist of the play. His loan to Nora and the subsequent blackmailing is the basis of the plot. Krogstad acts as a catalyst for the first two acts of the play. He sparks the action of the play and initiates the conflict. Patriarchal ideals are prevalent in A Doll’s House; woman had very little economic or political power and Krogstad brings out these aspects through his conversations with Nora. Women were physiologically, financially and socially dependent on men. Krogstad implying that business should not be done by woman is evidence for this. This helps to show how courageous, deep down, a character Nora is as she goes against all conventions to save her husband.

Krogstad adds a melodramatic element and makes A Doll’s House more interesting as with every visit to the Helmer residence he escalates Nora’s worries. Overall he helps the audience see another side of Nora and plays an important role in how she changes as a character. His conversations with her also made her question her love for Torvald. When Krogstad says “What I meant was, is it just awkwardness you’re afraid of?” [7] in response to Nora saying that it would be ‘awkward’ if Torvald found out shows that maybe she cares more about the image of a perfect matrimony more than Torvald himself. He also convinces Nora not to run away from it all by saying “Exactly. You aren’t brave enough either.” [8] This shows the expectations of Norwegian society and how they were expected to adhere to the socially accepted image of a woman. This makes the story stand out as Nora’s ‘runaway’ at the end of the book goes against all principles of the time and adds to the drama.

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Teiresias is the clairvoyant in Antigone and he sees the trouble coming to Thebes. He helps the audience to understand some of the more subtle traits of Creon. He brings out the significance of the prophecy in ancient Greece. His conflict with the king also mirrors the conflict between Creon and Antigone. He also shows the audience the dangers of “butting heads with the gods” how revered they were in that time. When he visits Creon he says “I will tell you, and you must obey the seer.” [9] Creon assures him that he will and then he goes on about the troubles coming to Thebes. This shows how Creon is actually scared of his fate even though he does not appear to be. Teiresias also threatens Creon by saying “You will provoke me to utter the secret of my soul.” [10] In all Thebian plays wise seers are common. Teiresias was established influential character, established in other plays. Teiresias forms a foil continues to see despite his power unlike Creon who is clouded by it.

In A Doll’s House the sacrificial role of women is established. This is seen how Nora takes a loan in order to save her husband’s life even though she know that it is going to make things very difficult for her later on. Parental obligations are a present theme and throughout the play there are hints that show that a parent’s immorality is passed on to the children. Krogstad’s blackmail makes Nora fight against these obligations and although she loves her children she still makes the choice to walk out on them. This is essential to the plot as Krogstad’s proceedings push Nora to the limit and help her make the choice to walk out on Torvald thus closing the play.

Minor characters convey all the subtleties that make the plays exceptional. A plot can only do so much with the main characters but at some point it needs the smaller ones, the glue, to hold it all together. Main characters are like locks and are impenetrable without the right key; minor characters are the keys.


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