In the play “A DOLL’S HOUSE”, we are presented with a very idealistic version of life in the late 1800’s, and along with that, the very confined roles both men and women were placed into. “A DOLL’S HOUSE” lends proof to the fact that women do not always enjoy the freedom to say, do and choose a lifestyle that they find fulfilling. The story that the play presents sheds a very domineering light on males as heads of households, and in society in general, and portrays women as dependent and subservient.
In the opening scene of “A DOLL’S HOUSE”, the main character Nora very tellingly hides, and later lies to her husband about eating a sugary treat (Ibsen). Although Nora’s husband Torvald grills with questions such as “Hasn’t Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today? ” she continues to deny that she has, despite having hidden a few macaroons in her pocket moments earlier (Ibsen). The question might arise: “would a man ever be subject to such questioning and severe restrictions”?
We do not often see the roles reversed, were the woman controls so much of what a man eats, how much he spends, what he does in his spare time, etc. , especially in literature and other sources of entertainment. Too often, the “traditional” views of marital and societal roles regarding men and women are presented over and over; the male “wears the pants”, dictating to the woman how much she should spend, where she should spend it, and how to behave “Properly”.
As the play progresses, we learn that Nora has committed a grievous crime, forging her fathers signature on a bond secured in order for she and her husband to spend time in Europe as part of Torvalds recovery from a grave illness. Nora is shown to be very dependent on money, and things of monetary value, and therefore her husband since he was obviously procurer of their financial status.
Nora comes across as is very dependent on Torvald for her financial needs, and also extremely greedy as evidenced when she exclaims like a child “Money! ” at the sight of her husband producing more money to give her (Ibsen). She follows that with “ten shillings–a pound- -two pounds! Thank you, thank you! ” (Ibsen).
Such exchanges throughout the play place such a childlike dependency on Nora towards her husband. It is interesting that Nora takes a secret pride in her crime, feeling that it sets her apart and gives her more purpose, while at the same time worrying about how “humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything! ” even fearing that their “beautiful happy home would no longer be…” (Ibsen).
Further still throughout the play, we are faced with more evidence to support the fact that women were not seen as equals in marriage, but as someone to be either proud of or shamed by according to their looks, actions, and ability to keep a home running smoothly. Nora herself is very aware of her place as a thing to be admired when she remarks to her friend Mrs.
Linde, “someday…when I am no longer as nice-looking as I am now…when Torvald is no longer as devoted to me as he is now; when my dancing and dressing-up and reciting have palled on him;” (Ibsen). Another very telling exchange between Torvald and Nora takes place during the preparation for a ball in which Nora is to dance. While trying to discourage her husband from getting the mail, and finding a letter from the man who was going to reveal her crime, Nora plays to Torvalds dominant tendency insisting that she cannot do it correctly without his help.
Although their conversation is in reference to her dance and practicing, it seems to shed some light on the type of relationship they have. Nora exclaims “I can’t dance tomorrow if I don’t practice with you…criticize me, and correct me…” to which Torvald replies “with great pleasure, if you wish me to” (Ibsen). As they practice, Nora’s nerves about her crime being exposed get the best of her and she is unable to perform correctly. Torvald cries “you will need a lot of coaching…you can depend on me” (Ibsen).