The play, A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, showcases a traditional marriage of a middle class couple in the Victorian Era. The marriages in the late nineteenth century were severely confining; the woman’s role was to be nurturing and submissive, while the man’s was to be powerful in both his work and domestic life. Similarly to these traditional matrimonies, the marriage of the protagonists, Nora and Torvald, emphasizes the implausibility of individuals to both meet the society’s expectations and achieve personal happiness. Hence, Ibsen exhibited this principle and inadvertently shocked society by exhibiting what most people believed to be “… a kind of godless androgyny; women,” such as the rebellious Nora, “…in refusing to be compliant, [a]re refusing to be women” (Templeton 13). Since men and women in the patriarchal society are conditioned to only accept women as daughters, wives, and mothers, both Nora and Torvald are submissive to society’s will; and so Torvald perpetuates this societal attitude without recognizing its injustice while Nora challenges it, thus reversing their traditional roles in society.
Initially, the protagonist in A Doll’s House, Nora, is portrayed as an immature and pretentious woman. Meanwhile, her husband, Torvald, is characterized as an intelligent and generous man. However, as the plot unfolds, evidence suggests that their dispositions are actually in reverse, due to their preoccupation with fitting into the molds that society has created for them to fit into. In reality, not only are their personalities opposite, but their positions in the household are as well. Consequently, Nora plays the part of the childish wife and Torvald plays the part of the dominating husband, but ultimately, Nora is empowered whereas Torvald is desperate to regain control.
Additionally, because society constantly reinforces the man’s supremacy and the woman’s subordinacy in a relationship, both Nora and Torvald uphold the pretense of having an ideal marriage; however, they are living an illusion. Initially, both Torvald and Nora seem to highly value appearances; however, obeying societal rules regarding appearance does not give either of them power–a reality that solely Nora is able to comprehend. Unaware that he is living in a household that is based on lies, Torvald treats his wife the way that society has taught him, because he seeks authority not only in his professional life, but in his personal life as well. He believes that women’s purposes only include housekeeping and amusement, so he wants his wife’s appearance, and thus his public front, to be immaculate. Accordingly, Torvald gives Nora money so that she can buy new clothes and presents for herself and their children, subsequently beautifying his family.
Also, Torvald affectionately calls Nora his “skylark and “squirrel,” and is amused by her immaturity. He enjoys her inability to think for herself, so he doesn’t “wish [her] anything but just what [she] is, [his] sweet little lark” (Ibsen 46). In order for him to constantly feel powerful, Torvald does not want his child-wife to mature, but instead desires that Nora remains dependent on his guidance and wealth. Furthermore, by calling her by animal nicknames, he dehumanizes her and makes it easier for himself to not acknowledge her as an actual person who needs his emotional, rather than financial support. Even Nora realizes that “…when [she is] no longer so attractive” Torvald will “love… [h]e[r] less than now” and will “stop… enjoying [her] dancing and dressing up and reciting for him…” (Ibsen 55), illustrating that although Nora realizes that Torvald does not appreciate her intelligence, rather than speaking up about her objectification, she desires to ignore it for the time being.
On the other hand, while Torvald is objectifying Nora in order to maintain his authority, he is being manipulated even more than she is. Because society has taught him that appearances are more important than emotional substance, “Torvald with his sensitivity has such sharp distaste for anything ugly” (Ibsen 81). However, he is unable to recognize impurities beneath the surface, such as his wife’s dishonesty. Contrarily, because Nora cares more about her family’s emotional wellbeing than Torvald does, she recognizes the lies that are present within her and Torvald’s marriage and chooses to block them out of her mind, while he is oblivious to them.
In addition, Torvald understands that society views women as being incapable of dealing with important matters, so he chastises Nora for getting involved in financial and work related issues, since they put his authority at risk. Although he enjoys invoking Nora’s excitement by giving her money to spend, he does not take responsibility for her frivolous spending habits. For instance, when Nora comes home with newly purchased items he asks her, “Has the little spendthrift been out throwing money around again?” (Ibsen 44) He then continues to patronize her by saying, “… Nora, Nora, how like a woman!” (Ibsen 44), demonstrating his belief that women are incapable of dealing with serious matters and that they are men’s burdens. Moreover, Torvald berates Nora about the importance of money when he tells her “No debts! Never borrow! Something of freedom’s lost–and something of beauty, too–from a home that’s founded on borrowing and debt” (Ibsen 44), displaying the importance he places on not owing anything to others and thus, not being subservient.
Through his controlling behavior towards Nora, such as appeasing Nora with money after she begs him for it, Torvald demonstrates his disbelief that these qualities should not pertain to women. Also, not only does he want to preserve his family’s appearance, but he also desires to preserve his own at work. Similarly to his domestic status, his professional one is based on the amount of power that he holds, which is demonstrated by his ability to command others. For this reason, Torvald feels threatened when Krogstad acts more friendly than professionally towards him.
Also, when Nora later beseeches him to not terminate Krogstad’s job, Torvald is afraid about “it…[being] rumored around… that [he] [i]s vetoed by his wife…” and inadvertently “make[ing him]self ridiculous in front of the whole office” (Ibsen 78), since being easily influenced by a woman, a supposedly inferior being, would cause Torvald to lose the respect of his coworkers. Therefore, “the necessity of money–its crucial connection to respect… figures importantly in… A Doll’s House” (Templeton 7), since wealth is the foundation of the social hierarchy, which consists of domineering men at the top and submissive women, who are not even able to make purchases or take out loans without their husbands’ consents, at the bottom.
Even though Nora subtly rebels against her husband and the patriarchal society as a whole, she still attempts to conserve her appearance as a submissive wife. In order to maintain a shred of dignity as a child-wife, Nora disobeys Torvald’s and society’s rules by taking on men’s attitudes and
duties. For example, she asks “Dr. Rank” if he wants “a little macaroon,” because he “c[an]not possibly know that Torvald had forbidden them…, and [she] also ha[s] one,” in an attempt to reject Torvald’s control over her. Next, “there [i]s just one last thing in the world that [she] ha[s]… such a consuming desire to say so Torvald could hear….” This desire of hers is to say, “… to hell and be damned!” (Ibsen 59), since cursing is considered an unladylike act. Later, another one of Nora’s secrets is revealed during her conversation with her childhood friend, Mrs. Linde.
Firstly, Nora wants them to only discuss her happiness with Torvald, which displays that Nora acts self-centered at times; much like men who were solely focused on their own problems, not women’s in the Victorian Era. Plus, “[Mrs. Linde] think[s that] Nora is incapable of anything serious[;]” however, Nora’s “… secret[,]” which is her “joy and pride” (Ibsen 55), affirms otherwise. Not wanting to humiliate Torvald, but also not wanting her power to be limited by him if he were to find out and stop her actions, Nora secretly saved his life when he was sick once, by borrowing money from Krogstad in order for Torvald to attain medical help, resulting in Nora needing to earn money in order to pay her debt to Krogstad. “Her criminality is thus both a result and a defiance of her exclusion….Nora, who as a married woman cannot borrow without her husband’s consent, is forced to go outside the law.
To acquire money on her own is to reject her lowly status…” as well as a sexist law, “… for it means operating in the world” (Durbach 140), an activity that society only allows a woman to do with her husband’s guidance. Unfortunately, though, Nora had no choice but to forge her father’s signature in the process. Not only had Nora committed this crime in order to protect Torvald from feeling indebted to her, and consequently, to allow him to maintain his masculine pride, but she enjoyed the process of it because “it was wonderful fun, sitting and working like that, earning money. It was almost like being a man” (Ibsen 55).
Although one may argue that her decision to break the law is an act of selflessness, in reality, her desire to attain the qualities that men are supposed to possess demonstrates that Nora’s main motivation to help her husband was not love, since she realizes that she is being oppressed, but the prospect of attaining more power, even if it is kept secret for the time being. In addition, her responsible actions showcase that people including Torvald and Nora’s friend, Mrs. Linde, underestimate Nora’s maturity, since although Nora exhibits the stereotypical female qualities of being immature, as demonstrated by her inability to empathize with Mrs. Linde, she is also hardworking; a presumed quality of men exclusively.
Moreover, because in the traditional Victorian society the oppression that she faces is seen as acceptable for women, Nora attempts to deny her restrictions for as long as possible. By buying “…new clothes for Iver… a sword… [and]… a horse and a trumpet for Bob…[,] and a doll and a doll’s bed here for Emmy…” (Ibsen 45), Nora is passing down the knowledge of gender stereotypes to her children. Also, Nora’s definition of freedom is “to know you’re carefree…; to be able to play with the children, and to keep up a beautiful, charming home…,” illustrating that Nora attempts to ignore the injustice of her only purpose in society being to take care of domestic duties and making “–everything just the way Torvald likes it…” (Ibsen 56). Plus, this depicts that Nora does not even have the freedom to make her own decisions about how the house should be arranged. Also, Nora “… transforms the tree fantastically… until it begins to radiate an appalling sense of false and misleading gaiety, becoming an emblem of the deceptive values generated in the doll’s house…,” since she hides her intelligence and rebellions behind her girly vulnerability and pretty purchases (Durbach 54).
Thus, her adornment of the tree showcases her “masquerade” and “duplicity,” since “the tinkering with the tree is clearly emblematic of Nora’s assumption of a disguise in a manic attempt to shore up a house on the verge of collapse” (Durbach 54). Plus, during her conversation with Mrs. Linde, Nora is shocked to discover that her old friend is happy without a husband, and accordingly learns that “some women indeed, do not love their husbands” (Durbach 102).
As a result, Nora begins to understand that women are not obligated to constantly rely on men for support and that it is possible for women to achieve happiness for themselves, not solely for their husbands. “When… [Nora] … realize[s this],…the truth needs cushioning from the awful implications–the instability of domestic values, the shattering of the roles that have given her status, purpose, and function in the doll’s house…” (Durbach 102), because all of the former values that society has implemented into her mind have suddenly become obliterated. “Her strategy, therefore, is to maintain appearances even if it means… living a lie…. But she will not go along with this subterfuge forever. Timing is all” (Durbach 102), suggesting that although Nora realizes that the society is deceiving her by instilling the belief that a woman’s only option in life is to adhere to her husband’s demands, Nora is betraying Torvald in the same way, since he does not question her honesty.
Meanwhile, Nora also understands that her only means of attaining authority as a woman is by manipulating men with her sexuality; however, she comes to realize that her power hurts others as well as herself. In order to receive what she desires from men, such as Dr. Rank and Torvald, Nora seduces them and pretends to be a stereotypically helpless woman. Not only does Nora flirt with Dr. Rank in order to attain money to pay off her loan to Krogstad, but also to prove to herself and to society that she is able to have power over men. “She has learnt to coax her husband into giving her what she asks… by playing all sorts of pretty tricks…. Now she naturally takes the same line with her husband’s friend (Shaw 226).
After Dr. Rank explains to Nora that he believes that a terrible occurrence is imminent and then continues to explain that he is sick and will die soon, Nora is visibly relieved because he is not referring to the likelihood of Krogstad revealing her crime to Torvald. Instead of being sympathetic towards Dr. Rank’s plight, Nora then flaunts her “flesh colored” stockings and asks Dr. Rank, “Aren’t they lovely?” (Ibsen 82) “…She… treat[s] Dr. Rank not as a dearly loved and respected friend, but as the cliche of her fantasies–a male doll,” whom she is able to control for her own benefit (Durbach 49). “Her illusion of the male doll is as humiliating as the doll role she has trained herself to play” (Durbach 49), and her manipulative behavior exhibits her inability to not do onto others what both society and Torvald have done onto her: treat her like a subordinate being.
In addition, it is ironic that the only way for Nora to feel powerful within her marriage is to act childishly in front of Torvald and to use her feminine sexuality. For instance, while preparing to perform a dance, Nora attempts to distract Torvald with her helplessness, because she does not want him to open a letter from Krogstad, which outlines her forgery. She then proclaims to Torvald, “I’ve forgotten the whole [dance] completely….Yes, take care of me, Torvald, please!” (Ibsen 91), demonstrating that Nora knowingly abuses her sexual power by promoting her vulnerability–a quality of hers that she knows Torvald is infatuated by. Plus, she lets him dress her up in a “… fancy dress from Capri” that he had bought for her. It “…is all sex and sexuality,… a device that transforms Nora into the kind of ethnic doll” (Durbach 45) that one can purchase and then use for his own enjoyment.
“The costume represents… her role as a living sexual fantasy in the bourgeois bedroom…,” since she does not even dress herself, but instead dresses up in order to be a suitable plaything for Torvald (Durbach 45). Her marriage, thus far, has shown her that in order to get others to listen to her and do things for her, she needs to use her sexuality and female characteristic of fragility, so “Nora… acts the sexual doll, even to the extent of allowing Torvald to choose the costume and the [tarantella] dance… (Durbach 45), thus causing him to think that he has full control of her, while in actually, she is the schemer who has the greater control in their relationship.
Because of her subservience to males, Nora faces consequences at the hands of both Dr. Rank and Torvald that eventually lead to her awakening to her lack of free will. Although Nora has succeeded in manipulating Dr. Rank, she realizes that what she has done is wrong and then decides against asking him for a favor. Dr. Rank tells Nora that “[Torvald i]s [not] the only one… who [woul]d give up his life for [her]” (Ibsen 84),” suggesting that he loves Nora. Because she “… now ha[s] the knowledge that [his] body and soul are at [her] command” (Ibsen 84), as a result of her seduction of Dr. Rank, Nora feels guilty for giving him false hope of her reciprocating his feelings, especially because Nora is married and still feels loyal towards Torvald. Also, Nora finally abandons her plan of manipulation because she does not wish to hurt a man who, as a result of his affection for her, seems weaker than most men, such as Torvald. “Nora now becomes “aware… of her own… tendency to reduce living substance to the empty forms of perverse fantasy” (Durbach 49).
Furthermore, the tarantella dance, which represents Nora and Torvald’s power struggle, between not only each other, but also each of them individually and society, causes Nora to visibly rebel against Torvald, rendering him desperate to gain back his control. Nora’s rampant dancing is a discernible rebellion against Torvald, thus rendering him desperate to gain back his control over her. As her dancing becomes increasingly crazed, Torvald yells to her, “Slow down….Not so violent, Nora! No, no, that won’t do it at all” (Ibsen 91-92). Her refusal to abide by his commands “reveal[s] the hoydenish mistress beneath the angel in the house” (Durbach 45), since for the first time, Nora is disobeying Torvald while he is aware of her defiance. Overall, the tarantella represents “the dance of the victim of the tarantella spider, and the delirious attempt of the body to rid itself of the poison…. (Durbach 52).
In this case, Nora and Torvald are both the victims and society is the metaphorical spider that spreads its venom through their marriage, causing them to fight for their freedom–a concept that Nora grasps better than Torvald does. As a result, Nora fights with Torvald for the presumedly powerful role of the man in their relationship. Later, Torvald takes on Nora’s previous role of seduction, because he believes that he has the right to “…look at [his] dearest possession” in an objectifying way, because “all [of her] loveliness… [i]s… [his]… alone… (Ibsen 100). Torvald sees that the freeness of the tarantella “is still in [Nora’s] blood… and it makes [her] even more enticing…. (Ibsen 100).
Plus, he finds Nora’s trembling attractive because as a man, it gives him an opportunity to protect her from harm, and it also demonstrates her vulnerability, which society has taught men to be infatuated with” (Ibsen 100). However, when Nora tells Torvald that she does not want to see him at this moment, he is shocked. Torvald does not understand what “[Nora] mean[s,]… and thinks that… Nora [is] teasing [hi]m” (Ibsen 101) because as her husband he thinks that he is entitled to have control over her body. This “…sexual attitude… [is] conditioned by… a determination to see Nora as… a dancing, singing, and reciting doll, created for his leisure moments, the maintenance of his household economy, and the convenience of his bed” (Durbach 53).
Nora’s encounters with Mrs. Linde, Krogstad, Dr. Rank, and finally withToravald all lead to her disillusionment, and incidentally, Torvald’s as well. Her encounter with Krogstad, a lawyer and Torvald’s coleague, because he is a window into Nora’s future, in which she is ostracized because of the crime that she has committed; Mrs. Linde because she helped Nora realize her potential to break female stereotypes, and Dr. Rank because he is an honest man whom Nora regretted hurting. In particular, the tarantella dance is the turning point in Nora and Torvald’s relationship. Once Torvald commands her to dance in a more proper manner, Nora more fully comprehends that her freedom of expression as well as her right to have control over her own body is being oppressed. For this reason, she decides to allow Torvald to read the letter from Krogstad about her crime, as she is no longer controlled by her fear of how society will view her. Although Nora realizes that the illusion of her utopian family will shatter after Torvald finds out about her secret, she does not expect him to react as angrily as he does.
While Nora understands her oppression more clearly after revealing her forgery to her husband and later decides to abandon her family, Torvald has also been rendered powerless and is unable to comprehend his wife’s decision to leave their household. While Nora had earlier decided to act selflessly in order to save her husband’s reputation, Torvald responds to the revelation of her forgery by attempting to preserve his authority and reputation for societal reasons. Even though Nora is cunning at times, society has constantly reinforced the quality of selflessness to females, so she believes that because she is willing to sacrifice herself for her husband, Torvald should be willing to do the same. Since as a wife, Nora realizes that it is her duty to unconditionally love her husband, “if anything awful [were to] happen…, then it just wouldn’t matter if [she] ha[s] debt or not” (Ibsen 44), because the wellbeing of her husband is more important to her than riches and societal status.
Initially, Nora fools herself into believing that “Torvald loves [her] beyond words (Ibsen 75). She does not acknowledge the warning signs of his over-protectiveness, such as the fact that he is extremely jealous at times and “… [woul]d like to keep [Nora] all to himself (Ibsen 75). Moreover, similarly to her relationship with her father, Nora’s marriage is characterized by a need to meet society’s standard of happiness, not her internal one. For instance, Nora believes that “… [she] loved Papa most (Ibsen 85). However, she does not believe that love leads to happiness, since “… [she] always thought it was so much fun when [she] could sneak down to the maids’ quarters, because they never tried to improve me…. [And w]ith Torvald it’s just the same as with Papa” (Ibsen 85), demonstrating that Nora and Torvald’s marriage is based on attaining necessities, like a beautiful family appearance, from one another, not true love or friendship.
However, Nora still expects that because she has saved Torvald’s life he would do the same for her; a belief that had earlier made her willing to sacrifice herself for his reputation. When Krogstad threatened to expose her criminality, “… such a certainty filled [her]:[she] was… utterly sure [that Torvald would] say to [Krogstad]: [‘]go on, tell your tale to the whole wide world.[’] And when he’d done that….[Torvald woul]d step forward and say: I am the guilty one” (Ibsen 112). Nora had solely desired that Torvald would offer to sacrifice his reputation for hers, since she even “ha[d] the courage” (Ibsen 87) to commit suicide in order to free Torvald from the responsibility that she presumed he would take for her forgery. Nora believed that she “…must die” because “her death w[ould have] be[en] conclusive proof of her blame, conclusive evidence in the face of Torvald’s ‘miraculous’ assumption of responsibility of her moral delinquency….” (Shaw 226), illustrating that she would do anything that is necessary in order to ensure that her husband’s reputation is conserved.
In reality, after finding out about Nora’s crime, Torvald wants to protect the family’s appearance as well as protect his children from the criminal, whom he perceives his wife to be. Although Torvald wants Nora to be his helpless wife, when her life is truly in danger, he is unwilling to give up his pride to protect her. For example, before finding out about Nora’s crime he tells her that “…time and again [he has] wished [that she was] in some terrible danger, just so [he] could stake [his] life and soul…, for [he]r sake” (Ibsen 104). However, once that terrible danger occurs, he is unwilling to protect his wife if a consequence of aiding her is losing his reputation as a powerful man.
Thus, he wants “… everything between [them to be] just as it was–to the outside world, that is” (Ibsen 106). He wants Nora to “…go right on living in th[ei] house, (Ibsen 106) since he does not wish to approbate his personal misfortunes to become public knowledge, since society’s perception of himself and his family is more important than the family members’ relations with each other. “From now on[,] happiness does… n[o]t matter [to him]; all that matters is saving the bits and pieces, the appearance” (Ibsen 106), because society has instilled the necessity of materialistic items, not feelings of love in most men.
In addition to wanting to keep up appearances, Torvald wants to protect his children from the criminal whom he believes Nora to be, since he has been taught by society that parents’ flaws are passed down to their children. For this reason, he believes that Nora “… can[no]t be allowed to bring up the children; [he] do[es no]t dare trust [her] with them…” (Ibsen 106). Like many people during the Victorian period, he believes that moral attributes as well as disabilities or illnesses are hereditary. For instance, Torvald believes that the reason that “… Dr. Rank… suffer[s] from… tuberculosis…” is that “his father was a disgusting thing who kept mistresses…” (Ibsen 74). Hence, because Torvald thinks lowly of Nora’s father, he believes that Nora broke the law because “… [he]r father’s flimsy values… have come out in [her]” (Ibsen 105). Also, since he thinks that “It [i]s usually the mother’s influence that [i]s dominant” (Ibsen 70) in the household, he does not want Nora’s criminality to influence their children’s morality and health in the future.
However, once he learns that his family’s reputation is no longer in danger, Torvald wants Nora to continue to be his doll-wife, but she decides to leave him; thus abruptly shattering his illusion of having a perfect marriage. Because Torvald has never truly understood Nora, he is initially unable to comprehend Nora’s decision to leave their seemingly happy doll-house, which is why Nora has decided to leave him in the first place. Similarly to how Nora earlier attempted to deny her oppression, Torvald wants to pretend that his marriage is not in ruins. Firstly, Torvald proclaims that “this ugliness all has to go…[, and he] want[s] the whole thing to fade like a dream” (Ibsen 107), showcasing that he does not understand the negative consequences, such as a furthering of Nora’s disillusionment, that his inability to protect her in her time of need has had on their marriage.
Next, he tells Nora, “You don’t seem to realize–it’s over” (Ibsen 107), yet while he believes that a tremendous hardship has terminated, in Nora’s point of view, an end to their marriage is imminent. When Nora gives him a “frozen look,” Torvald thinks that “[she] can[no]t believe [that he has] forgiven [her]…” and that she should “just lean on [hi]m” (Ibsen 107); however, Nora has learned to not expect him to aid her when she is in trouble. Contrarily, Torvald believes that forgiving Nora for a crime that she committed primarily for his benefit is a noble act. Additionally, her seemingly “… feminine helplessness… make[s her] twice as attractive to [hi]m” because he can now “…keep [her] like a hunted dove [that he has] rescued out of a hawk’s claws” (Ibsen 108), thus again comparing Nora’s vulnerability to that of an animal. Also, “it [i]s as if she belongs to him in two ways now: in a sense he’s given her fresh into the world again, and she [ha]s become his wife and his child as well” (Ibsen 108), thus allowing Torvald to hold even more power in their relationship.
On the other hand, Nora is finally willing to admit that Torvald has never truly loved her, so she is able to leave the doll house. Because Torvald wants their marriage to continue as it has previously, except with her in an increasingly subservient role, Nora realizes that “[Torvald] do[es no]t understand [her] and [she] never understood [him] either—until tonight…. (Ibsen 109), demonstrating that they have never taken the time to talk about anything “serious” and that both of their lives have been governed by decisions that they made in order to fit the set characteristics of their genders. Overall, “[Nora has] been wronged greatly,…–first by [her father], and then by [Torvald, who]… thought it fun to be in love with [her] (Ibsen 109), yet did not care enough about her to take care of her, since she mainly cared for them.
Essentially, “…[Nora] sees that [her and Torvald’s] whole family life [is] a fiction–their home a mere doll’s house in which they have been playing at ideal husband and father, wife and mother” (Shaw 225), and not discovering who they truly are as individuals. Plus, although some may think that “… the… woman… with her children, her presents, her nicknames, her extravagance, her pleasure in the thought of ‘heaps of money’–can be a suitable candidate for liberation…” (Hardwick 240), since Nora possesses all of the luxuries that many women desire. However, although Nora has been able to achieve many of the qualities that women are expected to have, she is yet to discover the characteristics that she wants to acquire for her own wellbeing.
Further, in addition to never truly knowing Torvald, Nora has yet to understand who she is as well, thus leaving her children and embarking on a journey to mature and become an independent woman, but not without hurting Torvald in the process. In a society in which happiness relies on outward appearances, Torvald is unable to comprehend why Nora is willing to sacrifice her seemingly perfect family life. Primarily, he thinks that “there [i]s no one who gives up honor for love” (Ibsen 113), so he is confused as to how Nora could have expected him to take the blame for her crime. However, Nora’s self sacrifices assert that “millions of women have done just that” (Ibsen 113).
Also, Torvald thinks that by desiring to leave his household, Nora is acting “… unfair and ungrateful…” (Ibsen 109-110). Because “… [their] home [ha]s been nothing but a playpen…” (Ibsen 109-110), Torvald expects Nora to be contented. Most importantly, he does not understand how Nora’s Conscience permits her to “… run out… on [he]r most sacred duties…[,]” which are “to [he]r husband and children[,]” since “before all else, [she is] a wife and a mother” (Ibsen 111). While Torvald severely oppresses Nora, he is unaware of alternative actions to take. Thus, unlike Nora’s gradual awakening to the problems of the society, Torvald is given no time to process them, nor his wife’s unhappiness, which renders him a powerless doll as well.
Next, in order not to pass on the belief of female stereotypes to her children and to educate herself, Nora fearlessly leaves the doll house, thus taking on the male role of protecting her family, while Torvald desperately wants her to stay. “She begins to perceive that the happy way in which she plays with the children and the care she takes to dress them nicely, are not sufficient to constitute her a fit person to train them” (Shaw 226), so Nora figures that abandoning her household is advantageous for both her own wellbeing, as well as her children’s. Most importantly, Nora“… ha[s] other duties equally as sacred…” as being a wife and a mother: “duties to [her]self….Before all else, [she i]s a human being, no less than [Torvald]” (Ibsen 111).
As a human being, “[she] ha[s] to… try to understand…” (Ibsen 111) more about society and decide for herself which conditioned morals she wants to implement into her future journey. Thus, “Nora… famously slams the door as she leaves the home. [This] action caused shock waves throughout the world, for it challenged firmly held ideas, such as the sanctity of marriage and the absolute authority of the man in the home…” (Saether). Torvald attempts to convince Nora to stay, even proposing that they engage in a brother-and-sister-like relationship, revealing his desperation and ultimately, his lack of complete control over Nora’s decisions, which has been constantly prevalent within their marriage.
In the end, Nora and Torvald’s illusions of each other collapse, along with their metaphorical dollhouse. Therefore, their positions in society are in reverse: Nora is free to discover who she is while Torvald is abandoned and assumes the responsibility of raising his and Nora’s children. In addition, Nora has a better knowledge about the causes of their separation, while Torvald still needs time to completely understand why Nora has left his household. Moreover, Nora believes that a “miracle” needs to occur for them to ever reunite. Mainly, Nora means that Torvald would need to be less objectifying and more understanding towards her. However, Nora does not recognize that the larger and far more unlikely miracle that would have to occur would be society loosening its control over the positions of both genders.
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