A Doll’s House: A Push to FreedomSometime after the publication of “A Doll’s House”, Henrik Ibsen spokeat a meeting of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights. He explained tothe group, “I must decline the honor of being said to have worked for theWomen’s Rights movement. I am not even very sure what Women’s Rights are. Tome it has been a question of human rights” ( ).
“A Doll’s House” is ofteninterpreted by readers, teachers, and critics alike as an attack on chauvinisticbehavior and a cry for the recognition of women’s rights ( ). Instead its themeis identical to several of his plays written around the same time period: thecharacters willingly exist in a situation of untruth or inadequate truth whichconceals conflict and contradiction ( ). In “A Doll’s House”, Nora’sindependent nature is in contradiction the tyrannical authority of Torvald. This conflict is concealed by the way they both hide their true selves fromsociety, each other, and ultimately themselves. Just like Nora and Torvald,every character in this play is trapped in a situation of unturth.
In “Ghosts”,the play Ibsen wrote directly after “A Doll’s House”, the same conflict is thebasis of the play. Because Mrs. Alving concedes to her minister’s ethicalbombardment about her responsibilities in marriage, she is forced to conceal thetruth about her late husband’s behavior ( ). Like “A Doll’s House”, “Ghosts”can be misinterpreted as simply an attack on the religious values of Ibsen’ssociety. While this is certainly an important aspect of the play, it is not,however, Ibsen’s main point. “A Doll’s House” set a precedent for “Ghosts” andthe plays Ibsen would write in following years.
It established a method hewould use to convey his views about individuality and the pursuit of socialfreedom. The characters of “A Doll’s House” display Henrik Ibsen’s belief thatalthough people have a natural longing for freedom, they often do not act uponthis desire until a person or event forces them to do so. Readers can be quick to point out that Nora’s change was gradual andmarked by several incidents. A more critical look reveals these gradual changesare actually not changes at all, but small revelations for the reader to seeNora’s true independent nature. These incidents also allow the reader to seethis nature has been tucked far under a facade of a happy and simple wife.
Inthe first act, she admits to Christine that she will “dance and dress up andplay the fool” to keep Torvald happy ( ). This was Ibsen’s way of telling thereader Nora had a hidden personality that was more serious and controlling. Hewants the reader to realize that Nora was not the fool she allows herself to beseen as. Later in the same act, she exclaims to Dr. Rank and Christine she hashad “the most extraordinary longing to say: ‘Bloody Hell!'” ( ).
This longingis undoubtedly symbolic of her longing to be out of the control of Torvald andsociety. Despite her desire for freedom, Nora has, until the close of the story,accepted the comfort and ease, as well as the restrictions, of Torvald’s homeinstead of facing the rigors that accompany independence. Ibsen wanted thereader to grasp one thing in the first act: Nora was willing to exchange herfreedom for the easy life of the doll house. Ibsen shows that it takes a dramatic event to cause a person toreevaluate to what extent he can sacrifice his true human nature. For Nora,this event comes in the form of her realization that Torvald values his ownsocial status above love ( ). It is important to understand Nora does not leaveTorvald because of the condescending attitude he has towards her.
That was, inher eyes, a small price to pay for the comfort and stability of his home. InBernard Shaw’s essay on “A Doll’s House”, he expresses that the climax of theplay occurs when “the woman’s eyes are opened; and instantly her doll’s dress isthrown off and her husband is left staring at her”( ). To the reader “it isclear that Helmer is brought to his senses” when his household begins to fallapart ( ). It is important that Shaw’s grammar is not overlooked.
Thestatements “the woman’s eyes are opened…” and “Helmer is brought…” bothindicate that the subject of the statement is