A Doll's House
by Henrik Ibsen
In reading Ibsen's " A Doll's House", one may find it hard
to imagine how daring 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, there are many clues that hint at the kind of
marriage Nora and Torvald have. It seems that 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 puppet master for all of its
actions. The most obvious example of Torvald's physical
control over Nora is his reteaching her the tarantella.
Nora pretends that she needs Torvald to teach her every
move in order to relearn the dance. The reader knows this
is an act, and it shows her submissiveness to Torvald.
After he teaches her the dance, he proclaims "When I saw
you turn and sway in the tarantella-my blood was pounding
till I couldn't stand it"(1009), showing how he is more
interested in Nora physically than emotionally. When Nora
responds by saying "Go away, Torvald! Leave me alone. I
don't want all this"(1009), Torvald asks "Aren't I your
husband?"(1009). By saying this, he is implying that one of
Nora's duties as his wife is to physically pleasure him at
his command. Torvald also does not trust Nora with money,
which exemplifies Torvald's treating Nora as a child. On
the rare occasion when Torvald gives Nora some money, he is
concerned that she will waste it on candy and pastry; in
modern times, this would be comparable to Macauly Culkin
being given money, then buying things that "would rot his
mind and his body" in the movie " Home Alone".
Nora's duties, in general, are restricted to caring for the
children, doing housework, and working on her needlepoint.
A problem with her responsibilities is that her most
important obligation 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 to the reader. The problem in A Doll's
House lies not only with Torvald, but with the entire
Victorian society. Females were confined in every way
imaginable. When Torvald does not immediately offer to help
Nora after Krogstad threatens to expose her, Nora realizes
that there is a problem. By waiting until after he
discovers that his social status will suffer no harm,
Torvald reveals his true feelings which put appearance,
both social and physical, ahead of the wife whom he 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 been treated like a child all
her life; her father had treated her much the same way
Torvald does. Both male superiority figures not only denied
her the right to think and act the way she wished, but
limited her happiness. Nora describes her feelings as
"always merry, never happy." When Nora finally slams the
door and leaves, she is not only slamming it on Torvald,
but also on everything else that has happened in her past
which curtailed her growth into a mature woman.
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 people in 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
"feminine charm" to accomplish what they want are what is
holding the female gender back. Both of these mindsets are
expressed in " A Doll's House". Torvald is an example of
today's stereotypical man, who is only interested in his
appearance and the amount of control he has over a person,
and does not care about the feelings of others. Nora, on
the other hand, is a typical example of the woman who plays
to a man's desires. She makes Torvald think he is much
smarter and stronger than he actually is; however, when
Nora slams the door, and Torvald is left alone, he realizes
what true love and equality are, and that they cannot be
achieved with people like Nora and himself together.
If everyone in the modern world were to view males and
females as completely equal, and if neither men nor women
used the power that society gives them based on their sex,
then, and only then, could true equality exist in our
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