Ibsen `The Dolls House` Essay
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The theme of Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’ is the rights of an individual to live his life in his own way which is more important than the conventions and codes of society, understanding and love are the essential ingredients for a happy married life. The theme is present in the play through the presentation of the married life of Nora and her husband. The significance of the theme is that if too much importance is given to the norms of society than to individual freedom, his emotions and feeling, it brings disaster as shown in the play.
The theme of ‘The Doll’s House’ by Ibsen is depicted mainly through the characters of Nora, and her husband Helmer. Nora breaks the rules of society initially to save his husband’s life and finally leaves her home, her husband and children to educate herself. Helmer on the other hand lives his life by strictly adhering to the rules of society. He is unable to understand his wife’s feelings and emotions and so his wife leaves him forever. Their marriage breaks down because they lacked understand and love which are required for a happy married life.
In Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’, Nora is the protagonist who lives the life of a dutiful wife and mother as approved by society. She plays her role beautifully which is restricted to activities like creating a beautiful home, meeting the needs of her husband and children and singing and dancing prettily and seductively for her husband. She is portrayed in the play as a helpless creature; Helmer towards the end of the play calls her his ‘helpless darling’. She is also thought as a housewife protected by her husband from the troubles and burdens of life (said by her friend Mrs.
Linde). However, when crisis strikes, she acts as a man. She herself takes the decision. She borrows a large sum of money from a man named Krogstad to save her husband’s life. She spares her dying father from the worry of his son-in-law’s heath. She forges her father’s signature, (the male member of the family who was supposed to act as a guarantor) and procures the money. She follows the advice of the doctor and takes Helmer to the south, to Italy to recover his health. The loan caused a lot of worry for her.
She suppressed her desires for finery, saves a little from housekeeping money and worked in the evening till late at night to pay the loan back. She sometimes felt very tired but in spite of all her struggles, she felt great happiness in working and earning money. As she tells her friend: ‘It was like being a man’, (Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’). On the other hand, Torvald Helmer, her husband strictly follows the rules of the society. He considers his wife Nora as a plaything and his possession. He worries about the reaction of the people in the bank, when his wife Nora requests him to allow Krogstad to keep his position in the bank.
They are already aware that he will dismiss Krogstad, so if they come to know that the new manager has changed his mind at his wife’s request, he will become a laughing stock in their eyes. Helmer tells Nora that: “Do you suppose I am going to make myself ridiculous before my whole staff, to let people think that I am a man to be swayed by all sorts of outside influence? ”, (Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’). At the end, when Helmer receives the letter from Krogstad revealing Nora’s crime of forgery, he is inconsolable: “What a horrible awakening! All these eight years–she who was my joy and pride–a hypocrite, a liar–worse, worse–a criminal!
”,(Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’). He not only abuses her but also blames her father: “all your father’s want of principle has come out in you. No religion, no morality, no sense of duty”, (Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’). We find from the play that Helmer is more concerned about the disgrace that he may face in society more than the seriousness of crime that Nora commits. He blames Nora for the mishap: “He can make the affair known everywhere; and if he does, I may be falsely suspected of having been a party to your criminal action. Very likely people will think I was behind it all–that it was I who prompted you! ” (Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’).
He decides to appease Krogstad in one way or another and shut up the matter at all cost. He believed that because of this incident, they can no longer share a close relationship as before and also he cannot allow her near his children. But still he wants Nora to continue staying under his roof as his wife for the sake of appearance to the world. As he is afraid that he will be stigmatized by society. However, later when he receives the second letter from Krogstad stating that the man repents for his action and has returned the bond, he calms down. Helmer realizes that he is saved from disgrace and thus he becomes the loving husband as before.
He changes his stance, he forgives his wife. However, the damage is done. Disaster strikes the family; he loses his wife and mother of his children. On the other hand, Nora does not live her life according to the dictates of society. She breaks away her traditional role of a devoted wife and loving mother. She leaves Helmel and frees herself from the bondage of marriage. Thus she outrage society and stigmatize herself. In the play, Nora and Helmer look on the outside as a happy married couple. However at the end of the play, the curtain moves away to show a more realistic picture of marriage.
As Nora realizes at the end of the play, there is a lack of understanding and love between the couple. Helmer considers Nora as his doll and his treasure. He also wants her to act according to his wishes. He tells Nora after he forgives her: “There is something so indescribably sweet and satisfying, to a man, in the knowledge that he has forgiven his wife–forgiven her freely, and with all his heart. It seems as if that had made her, as it were, doubly his own”, (Ibsen’s ‘The Doll’s House’). As Nora mentions, they could not understand each other even after eight years of marriage.
Nora understands that her husband is a man with strong opinions about the role of woman in family and that his male ego would be hurt if he finds out about her secret loan. Also that he is very possessive about her. But she is unaware of the fact that her husband is a narrow-minded and selfish man. Helmer also fails to understand Nora. He does not realize Nora’s motive behind forging her father’s signature. He failed to understand his wife’s deep love for him which compelled her to borrow such a large amount in the first place. In the play, it is evident that Nora loves her husband and Helmer has great affection for Nora.
But their love and affection for each other is not strong enough to keep them together in marriage. In the play, ‘The Doll’s House’ by Ibsen, Torvald lives his life by the guidelines that are acceptable and respectable to society. He is concerned more about his wife’s attractive looks and the beautiful appearance of his home than for his wife’s happiness. So his marriage breaks down. Nora realizes that she has imbibed the tastes and opinions of his husband and thus has lived a life according to his terms. She always though she was happy but was never really happy but rather jolly.
Nora leaves her husband and her family and goes away to live her life according to her own terms. She wants to educate herself, to understand herself and everything around her. She goes away to fulfill her duties to herself which come before her duties as a wife and mother. She wants to understand who is right, the world or herself. The significance of the theme is beautifully presented in the play.
Work Citation: “A Doll’s House”. Novelguide. com. 18 June 2008. <http://www. novelguide. com/ADoll’sHouse/themeanalysis. html> “A Doll’s House”. Henrik Ibsen. 18 June 2008 <http://www. gutenberg. org/dirs/etext01/dlshs11. txt>