A Doll's House


In reading Ibsen's A Doll's House today, one may find it hard to 
imagine how daring it seemed at the time it was written one
hundred years ago. Its theme, the emancipation of a woman, makes it 
seem almost contemporary. 

 In Act I, there are many clues that hint at the kind of marriage 
Nora and Torvald have. It seems that Nora is a doll controlled by 
Torvald. She relies on him for everything, from movements to thoughts, 
much like a puppet who is dependent on its puppet master for all of 
its actions. The most obvious example of Torvald's physical control 
over Nora is his reteaching her the tarantella. Nora pretends that she 
needs Torvald to teach her every move in order to relearn the dance. 
The reader knows this is an act, and it shows her submissiveness to 
Torvald. After he teaches her the dance, he proclaims "When I saw you 
turn and sway in the tarantella-my blood was pounding till I couldn't 
stand it"(1009), showing how he is more interested in Nora physically 
than emotionally. When Nora responds by saying "Go away, Torvald! 
Leave me alone. I don't want all this"(1009), Torvald asks "Aren't I 
your husband?"(1009). By saying this, he is implying that one of 
Nora's duties as his wife is to physically pleasure him at his 
command. Torvald also does not trust Nora with money, which 
exemplifies Torvald's treating Nora as a child. On the rare occasion 
when Torvald gives Nora some money, he is concerned that she will 
waste it on candy and pastry; in modern times, this would be 
comparable to Macauly Culkin being given money, then buying things 
that "would rot his mind and his body" in the movie Home Alone. Nora's 
duties, in general, are restricted to caring for the children, doing 
housework, and working on her needlepoint. A problem with her 
responsibilities is that her most important obligation is to please 
Torvald, making her role similar to that of a slave. Many of Ibsen's 
works are problem plays in which he leaves the conclusion up to the 
reader. The problem in A Doll's House lies not only with Torvald, but 
with the entire Victorian society. Females were confined in every way 
imaginable. When Torvald does not immediately offer to help Nora after 
Krogstad threatens to expose her, Nora realizes that there is a 
problem. By waiting until after he discovers that his social status 
will suffer no harm, Torvald reveals his true feelings which put 
appearance, both social and physical, ahead of the wife whom he says 
he loves. This revelation is what prompts Nora to walk out on
Torvald. When Torvald tries to reconcile with Nora, she explains to 
him how she had been treated like a child all her life; her father had 
treated her much the same way Torvald does. Both male superiority 
figures not only denied her the right to think and act the way she 
wished, but limited her happiness. Nora describes her feelings as 
"always merry, never happy." When Nora finally slams the door and 
leaves, she is not only slamming it on Torvald, but also on everything 
else that has happened in her past which curtailed her growth into a 
mature woman. In today's society, many women are in a situation 
similar to Nora's. Although many people have accepted women as being
equal, there are still people in modern America who are doing their 
best to suppress the feminist revolution. People ranging from 
conservative radio-show hosts who complain about "flaming femi-nazis," 
to women who use their "feminine charm" to accomplish what they want 
are what is holding the female gender back. Both of these mindsets are 
expressed in A Doll's House. Torvald is an example of today's 
stereotypical man, who is only interested in his appearance and the 
amount of control he has over a person, and does not care about the 
feelings of others. Nora, on the other hand, is a typical example of 
the woman who plays to a man's desires. She makes Torvald think he is 
much smarter and stronger than he actually is. However, when Nora 
slams the door, and Torvald is no longer exposed to her manipulative 
nature, he realizes what true love and equality are, and that they 
cannot be achieved with people like Nora and himself together. If 
everyone in the modern world were to view males and females as 
completely equal, and if neither men nor women used the power that 
society gives them based on their sex, then, and only then, could true 
equality exist in our world. 


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