Doll’s House By IbsenIn reading Ibsen’s A Doll’s House today, one may find it hard to imagine howdaring 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, thereare many clues that hint at the kind of marriage Nora and Torvald have.
It seemsthat 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 puppetmaster for all of its actions. The most obvious example of Torvald’s physicalcontrol over Nora is his reteaching her the tarantella. Nora pretends that sheneeds Torvald to teach her every move in order to relearn the dance. The readerknows this is an act, and it shows her submissiveness to Torvald.
After heteaches her the dance, he proclaims “When I saw you turn and sway in thetarantella-my blood was pounding till I couldn’t stand it”(1009), showinghow he is more interested in Nora physically than emotionally. When Noraresponds by saying “Go away, Torvald! Leave me alone. I don’t want allthis”(1009), Torvald asks “Aren’t I your husband?”(1009). Bysaying this, he is implying that one of Nora’s duties as his wife is tophysically pleasure him at his command. Torvald also does not trust Nora withmoney, which exemplifies Torvald’s treating Nora as a child. On the rareoccasion when Torvald gives Nora some money, he is concerned that she will wasteit on candy and pastry; in modern times, this would be comparable to MacaulyCulkin being given money, then buying things that “would rot his mind andhis body” in the movie Home Alone.
Nora’s duties, in general, arerestricted to caring for the children, doing housework, and working on herneedlepoint. A problem with her responsibilities is that her most importantobligation 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 tothe reader. The problem in A Doll’s House lies not only with Torvald, but withthe entire Victorian society. Females were confined in every way imaginable. When Torvald does not immediately offer to help Nora after Krogstad threatens toexpose her, Nora realizes that there is a problem.
By waiting until after hediscovers that his social status will suffer no harm, Torvald reveals his truefeelings which put appearance, both social and physical, ahead of the wife whomhe 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 beentreated like a child all her life; her father had treated her much the same wayTorvald does. Both male superiority figures not only denied her the right tothink and act the way she wished, but limited her happiness. Nora describes herfeelings as “always merry, never happy. ” When Nora finally slams thedoor and leaves, she is not only slamming it on Torvald, but also on everythingelse that has happened in her past which curtailed her growth into a maturewoman.
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 peoplein 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 “femininecharm” to accomplish what they want are what is holding the female genderback. Both of these mindsets are expressed in A Doll’s House.
Torvald is anexample of today’s stereotypical man, who is only interested in his appearanceand the amount of control he has over a person, and does not care about thefeelings of others. Nora, on the other hand, is a typical example of the womanwho plays to a man’s desires. She makes Torvald think he is much smarter andstronger than he actually is. However, when Nora slams the door, and Torvald isno longer exposed to her manipulative nature, he realizes what true love andequality are, and that they cannot be achieved with people like Nora and himselftogether. If everyone in the modern world were to view males and females ascompletely equal, and if neither men nor women used the power that society givesthem based on their sex, then, and only then, could true equality exist in ourworld.