A Doll House – Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
It is never to late to become a person you were meant to be. God made men and women to be different yet equal. However, throughout the centuries, women faced and struggled many challenges to be accepted as equal as men. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is considered as the father of modern prose drama. Most of his major works reflect the social issues that provoked controversy in the nineteenth century. “ A Doll House” is one of the clearest portraits of women’s lives in this era in which they have to struggle with many challenges to identify themselves and to see the value of individuals.
Nora, who is being suppressed in her own house and representing as a doll, a decoration. However, eventually, Nora finds out her true self and she knows that she deserves more. Throughout the play, Ibsen creates a Nora with so many faces and characteristics, nonetheless, moving from this stage to another, Nora slowly discovers her own individual and it changes her life completely. As beginning, the play takes place in the Christmas Eve and the picture of Nora with happiness and enjoyment appears. Her child-like personality is exhibited evidently in the conversation and the way she reacts to her husband.
First, she lies about having some macaroons and she denies whole-heartedly. “You know I could never think of going against you” (861). In the spousal relationship, do spouses need to lie about such things? Even though, this is only the minor detail in the first act, the viewers can easily see the overall picture in this relationship in which a wife only can do such things with her husband’s approval. Second, the way her husband calls her by such names: “little squirrel”, “little lark” or even “featherhead”, defines more about this marriage relationship.
Instead of getting annoyed, Nora reacts to her husband so cheerfully and it seems like she doesn’t mind at all. Based on this interaction, the viewers can’t see the connection between a wife and a husband equally. Instead, it portraits a picture of an innocent and thoughtless wife who is willing to serve for her husband’s sake, and it is her life’s purpose. In front of Torvald, she always acts so lovely and adorable wife, sort of silly-little-girl. However, as the play processes, the viewers will find out more about Nora’s qualities, which completely changes her life afterwards.
At the first stage, Nora could be seen as a light-hearted and a vapid characteristic with little personality of her own. However, for Nora, nothing is more precious than love. The viewers, who find her as a doll in the house, now can judge her more evidently. As soon as Nora reveals to Kristine that she is secretly in debt, and all of that money was spent on her husband’s illness, the macro portrait of this play contraries to the viewers’ expectation. First, to save his life, she borrows the money. Second, to save his pride, she lies to him that was her father’s money. He’s so strict on that subject. Besides – Torvald, with all his masculine pride – how painfully humiliating for him if he ever found out he was in debt to me” (867). The one acts like the savior of Nora’s life is the one being protected by her. And Nora, the one who acts so silly and playful, always coaxes money from him, turns out as a true hero. An image of a pretty doll now is replaced by an image of a woman who finds enjoyment in earning money. She says: “it was wonderful fun, sitting and working like that, earning money. It was almost like being a man” (868).
She tries as hard as she can to protect her family, which she describes as “our beautiful, happy home”. She knows the fact that her husband likes to control over things, included her. To please him, she’s willing to play as an obedient wife, a loyal pet. However, if and only if he loves her as much as she does, she thinks all the things she sacrifices would be worthy. However, the real miracle that she always thought performed by her husband finally appears in her life when Torvald finds out Nora “big secret”. Torvald opens her eyes to reality.
She knows now her position in her husband’s heart and what she actually is in the house. There isn’t any string attached between Nora and her husband. Torvald doesn’t love her as she thought. He loves her, but as his property. He doesn’t treat her as a wife who sacrificed her whole life deserves. Her dream is collapsed. The love she imaged never existed. “ It was this evening when the miraculous thing didn’t come – then [she] knew [him] weren’t the man [she]’d imagined” (909). Finally, she finds out what she’s meant in that house, “[Her] home’s been nothing but a playpen. She]’s been [his] doll-wife here, just as at home [she] was Papa’s doll child” (907). She is fully awakened to identify her true self. “[She]’s a human being, no less than [him] – or anyway, [she] ought to try to become one” (908). However, in the last scene where “she goes out down the hall” and “the sound of the door slamming shut” leaves behind so many controversies. From the beginning, Nora is portrayed as a beloved wife and mother. She always follows her heart. Now, she leaves the house, the children to find what she’s meant to this world.
This action could be selfish and opposites to her qualities. Nevertheless, down deep in her consciousness, she realizes that she needs to step out the doll frame, break down the doll marriage in which she a “doll wife”, and her children destined to be “doll children”. She needs to discontinue the pattern of instilling societal norms on her children, if not, her daughter, her son would be get caught in this trap again. Nora, a portrait of women’s life at that time, she is just a small piece in thousand of pieces who could or could not escape from and break down the pattern of societal norms.
In the beginning, she looks like an innocent and pretty doll that can only see her husband and her family as the joy of her life. Nonetheless, throughout the stages, the viewers get a chance to see her more deeper and closer. She is not heartless or thoughtless but she didn’t able to figure out her true value. There are two personalities parallel exist in her. She just needs strength to break down the surface. When great miracle comes, a doll now wants to have a real life, a real spirit. Finally, Nora can figure out what she wants in her life.
She wants to live her life. The door was closed behind Nora, but one new life is waiting ahead for her, a life in which she can fully being herself. Nowadays, somewhere in the world in which women are still treated as men’s property, women’s rights movement will be keeping the track until it brings back to the point where God meant men and women to be. Works Cited Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House. Making Literature Matter. John Schilb and John Clifford. New York: Bedford / St. Martins, 2009. 858-890. Print.