n and Gustave Flaubert respectively. Between them, they share many similarities. They both are exploiting the main character of the novels they are in. They both want something, which was at least at one point money. They both seem cold and heartless, remorseless, though nice at one point in time. When are also alike in that when they want something, they will resort to vicious means of acquiring it. They know the secrets in which both novel’s plots are based. The list of similarities is significant as any one can see, but can they really be named “similar”? Perhaps they have some in common, but are the characters truly alike? It would seem to me that they are actually very different. It can be argues either way, but the correct answer to this question can only come though examination. Weighing both the likenesses and similarities will rule out either extreme in likeness, but perhaps they fall into a category close to one side. In this essay I intend to cut through the protective fibers set by Flaubert and Ibsen, and to examine the contents of two important characters, to compare them, and to contrast.
Both Lheureux and Krogstad want something. At first they both want money, which is a large similarity. Soon Krogstad changes his demand to keeping his job, and Lheureux just lets the debts owed to him by Emma Bovary build up. They both seem nice at one point in each work. Lheureux begins on a good note, being very kind to Emma and her husband. He extends a lot of credit to Emma, which she abuses, and unwittingly plans her own demise. Krogstad on the other hand begins with a money grubbing attitude, though not quite as ruthless as that of Lheureux. Krogstad’s ultimately progresses through the play, when at the end he is actually a decent individual. It would seem that as far as character progression goes, the two are inverse of each other. They both use threats to gain what they want. In Lheureux’s case, he threatens to tell her husband, and later foreclosure if she doesn’t pay. She managed to put Lheureux off for a while. Finally he lost patience…He’d be
forced to take back the things he had brought her.
“Then take them back!” Emma said.
“Oh, I was only joking,” he answered. “Im only sorry about the hunting
crop. I think I’ll ask Monsieur if I may have it back.”
“No!” she cried.
“Aha! I’ve got you!” thought Lheureux.
And sure that he had discovered her secret, he left, saying to himself
under his breath, with the usual slight wheeze: “All right. We’ll see. We’ll see.”
Krogstad threatens Nora to tell her husband of the crime she’s committed if she doesn’t find some way for him to not be severed from the business that his employer, Nora’s husband, runs.
KROGSTAD. Besides, it would have been a great piece of folly. Once the storm
at home is over?. I have a letter for you husband in my pocket.
NORA. Telling him everything?
KROGSTAD. In as lenient a manner as I possibly could.
NORA (quickly). He mustn’t get the letter. Tear it up. I will find some means
of getting money.
KROGSTAD. Excuse me Mrs. Helmer, but I think I told you just now?
NORA. I am not speaking of what I owe you. Tell me the sum you are asking my husband for, and I will get the money.
KROGSTAD. I am not asking your husband for a penny.
NORA. What do you want, then?
KROGSTAD. I will tell you. I want to rehabilitate myself, Mrs. Helmer; I want
to get on; and in that your husband must help me. For the last year and a half I
have not had my hand in anything dishonorable, and all that time I have been
struggling in most restricted circumstances. I was content to work my way up
step by step. Now I am turned out, and I am not going to be satisfied with merely
being taken into favor again. I want to get on, I tell you. I want to get into the
bank again, in a higher position. Your husband must make a place for me?
NORA. That he will never do!
KROGSTAD. He will; I know him; He dare not protest. And as soon as I am in there again with him, then you will see! Within a year I shall be the manager’s right
hand. It will be Nils Krogstad and not Torvald Helmer who manages the bank.
Though the similarities may seem striking, they are not enough to constitute the characters being truly similar. There are many differences between the two literary villains. First of all, Lheureux is very furtive in his underhandedness. He waits until Emma has built up some debts, extending her credit farther and farther until it gets to the point when he can snap it back, being “forced” to foreclose on her and her family. He appears very nice in the beginning, then like a cold-hearted snake towards the end. On the other hand, Krogstad is very blunt about his acts. As soon as he needs something he throws his evidence of Nora’s crime in her face, and demands she help him get his job back, and at a higher position. He is not nice to her, and uses his evil demeanor to make her believe he is really capable of following through on his threat. In the position of the plot of Madame Bovary Lheureux is ready to foreclose on Emma, and at the same position in A Doll’s House, Krogstad is withdrawing his threat, and falling back into love with Mrs. Linde. Also, this type of treachery is not a usual occurrence for Nils Krogstad. He does not normally extort people for things. However, actions such as this are almost common to Lheureux, which we know from foreshadowing earlier on in the novel. He has worked his scheme so many times it that he does not think twice about what he is doing, no remorse. Krogstad does at least show signs of being “forced” to his actions, and later does call off his threats. When it comes straight down to it, they are just two different people, only considered similar because they are both “evil” characters in literary works. They are very different inside. One is seemingly emotionless, the other isn’t as bad of a person in their heart. Lheureux is really the only true villain when it comes to instinct. Krogstad and Lheureux are very different individuals.
It would seem that the list of differences are only slightly more massive than that of the similarities, but having read both books, and examined both characters, I think the differences themselves are more significant than any of the similarities. I believe that the characters are more different than similar, regardless of how they may seem at first glance. As it can be seen now, a closer examination of the characters reveals that although there are striking similarities, there are large differences as well, differences that create placement far apart from each other.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Trans. Mildred Marmur. New York: Signet, 1964.
Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House.” In Four Great Plays by Ibsen. Trans. R. Farquharson Sharp. New York: Bantam, 1959.