In Ibsen’s symbolic play “A Doll House”, Nora is the bird, and her marriage is the cage. A bird may have beautiful wings, but within a cage, the beautiful wings are useless. Within the cage, the bird is not fulfilling the potential for which it was created – it is merely a household decoration. Externally, Nora is a beautiful creature entertaining her husband with the beautiful images of an obedient wife, but internally, she is a desperate creature longing to explore her potential outside the cage of her marriage.
In a society dominated by the expectations of men, Nora must choose between the obligations determined by her role as wife in disagreeing to the obligations of self, in determining her true identity and Christine’s identity within the social convention of marital life. Nora’s flight to personal freedom is considered useless to some feminist critics, due to the decision of Christine to re unite with Krogstad. However Nora is praised for leaving Torvald. In some ways I agree with this statement though both Christine and Nora’s characters differ immensely allowing them to take different actions according to their character.
The role of women in late 19th century marriage was very stereotypical, providing your husband with children, and caring for one’s family, the perfect mother and wife, honest, loving and loyal to her husband. Women didn’t have the same equal rights as men, and Ibsen portrays Nora as the total opposite, as a bird which escapes and fly’s away, leaving behind an empty cage only to experience new ways. Never was a woman to have a good paying job and deal with money, which was a man’s job. Nora was isolated from the real society she lived in, she knew not of what it was like to survive in the real world.
Money was an enormous issue towards Nora, she would have it in her fingers and it would just slip away, she knew not the value of money, so she carelessly spent it at times. Nora is in actuality a child, fully grown, unaware of the law, and the society. Nora was a stereotypical 19th century woman and obeyed her husband, everything Torvald had achieved was what Nora had achieved as well, his success of promotion, at a good paid job and a high social status, was overwhelming for Nora. “Oh, Christina, I feel so light hearted and happy! It’s delightful to have lots of money, and no need to worry about things, isn’t it?
Nora boasts about how successful they are, when Christina is isolated with no family and no money. Christine on the other hand is embracing into marriage, she has had experience of how hard life can be without relying on a father or husband, like Nora did. She married for her family’s sake. She saw an opportunity of a better, wealthier life and took it. It shows Christina’s loyalty to her family when she did not think that she “had the right” to refuse her husband’s marriage proposal. After taking into consideration her sick mother, her brothers, and her husband having money.
She married for the welfare of her family. Hence, family is top priority in this society. To the women of this era, loyalty to their loved ones is highly expected. Both Nora and Christina express their feelings of pride and fulfilment in helping their significant others by sacrificing themselves. Christine supported her brothers and her mother through the marriage, and struggled to support them once she lost her husband. Christine’s new love with krogstad is extremely different than Nora’s. Christine in fact has a better job than Krogstad so she is supporting him and his children, which wasn’t the social status.
Kristine is much more independent and aware of the social environment and the law. Christina’s success comes from herself, for her need to care for someone. “I need someone to be a mother to, and your children need a mother. You need me, and I – I need you. With you I fear nothing. ” (270) Christine is an incredibly independent woman with ambitions in life. Therefore her life is fulfilled with happiness when she is able to support someone through her working; work is what keeps her going. “I must have work or I can’t bear to live. Work has been my one great joy…
there is no happiness in working for ones self. ” (269) Work has been around Christina her entire life. She worked to support her family and worked once her husband died to support herself. Christina is the total opposite to a 19th century woman; she supports her own life, and is in control, which was at the time socially wrong. A contrasting difference in Nora and Christina, are shown not in the characters themselves, but the role that they play in their marriages. These women have different relationships with their husbands. Torvald and Nora have a relationship where there is no equality.
To Torvald Nora is an object. For this reason, she plays the submissive role in a society where the lady plays the passive role. Her most important obligation is to please Torvald, making her role similar to a slave. He too considers himself superior to her. As for Christine and Krogstad their relationship is much more open to us. It is apparent that if Christine and Krogstad were to engage in an argument, it is more likely that that they would come to a compromise. However Nora and Christina share a similar trait, that being that they would sacrifice anything for a loved one.
It appears that Christina comes off as superior to Nora because she feels that Nora has never done hard work in her life. Christina is referring to the sacrifices she has made. She makes a remark about Nora still being a child. As if to say that she was inexperienced. At the end of the play Nora agrees that it is “true”, Nora does not know much about the world, and that if she is to learn, then she will have to experience it for herself. This remark explains that Nora is capable of choosing herself over her husband.
Furthermore Nora has to be herself before she can be a wife or mother for that matter. A feminist’s perception between the two women varies immensely. Feminists describe marriage as the man being the dominant figure, he takes care of the marriage and the support of the family, and the woman cleans the house and is merely a puppet to her husband. However Christina is the dominant person in the relationship with krogstad, she works and supports the family so feminists should really praise upon the re unitation between Christina and Krogstad as she is equal to the man in the marriage.
As for Nora, her marriage is a feminist relationship. It is only her leaving at the end of the play which turns Nora into a strong, independent woman. Nora is discovering her true identity, so Christina embracing marriage at the same time as Nora leaving her husband doesn’t really sabotage Nora’s flight to personal freedom, as Christina is the dominant figure in the relationship, so freedom is gained and influenced in this society and era.