Ibsen created a controversial character of the ages with Nora. With that resounding slam of the door, many questions still remain. Would a woman of her statue and position during that time really leave her family? This grand decision of the character is an ending that forced Ibsen to write an alternate ending that would be considered acceptable for the German debut. This one had Nora return to her children and collapse before the curtain is brought down. Ibsen called this ending a disgrace to the original and called it a "barbaric outrage". (Wikipedia.com). Although this decision is intended to pull the heartstrings of women everywhere, mothers wonder how she could turn her back on her children.
A Doll's House three acts is a poetic way to showcase Nora's evolvement of character. As the reader is introduced to Nora, we are subjected to a certain level of maturity that is not much more sophisticated than her children. This is especially apparent in the company of her husband where silly pet names are often used. "You can't deny it, Nora dear. The squanderbird's a pretty little creature, but she gets through an awful of money. It's incredible what an expensive pet she is for a man to keep." (Greenwald 855) The second act a different Nora is introduced. Desperation sets in as her behavior becomes manic, when her life begins to unravel. Like most Victorian era women, she knows the value of money, but is ignorant of the order of society. Her realm of knowledge comes from a weekly household allowance that stemmed from her father and now her husband. Taking the loan from Krogstad and forging her father's name, she was blissfully unaware of the consequences. The third act finds Nora secret out and a furious husband. Through Torvald's speech a change takes place in Nora's demeanor. A dynamic change has taken place.
The men of the Victorian Era were responsible for all financial obligations, all social contacts, and were always strong and rational. However, the women had a role as well and Nora played this role well. They took care of the home and children. They were taught to be dependent of husbands both financially and emotionally. Once Torvald was sick, Nora was at a loss. These unspoken rules no longer applied. Nora had to step outside of society's laws take care of him when he could no longer provide. She was able to deceive the system and forge her father's name to the I.O.U. and receive funds to care for their family. She was no longer the helpless female that her husband constantly implied. Torvald recovered and gender roles were once again reinstated and Nora was put back in her place. However, this time she had a secret.
With the visit of Kristine Linde, Nora is shown that there is a world outside of the Helmer household. Kristine is an independent, self-sufficient woman that Nora can respect. When her costume dress is ripped and in need of fixing, Nora is at a loss of what to do. Kristine takes the dress immediately and sews it to repair. She urges Nora to tell Torvald of the secret she is keeping from him. "Helmer must know the truth. This unhappy secret of Nora's must be revealed. They must come to a full understanding; there must be an end of all these shiftings and evasions." (875). Kristine's knowledge comes from a world that she has lived alone and on her own. These choices that Kristine has made have left her stronger and more resilient to society and Nora is envious of this.
Although Nora feels a sense of duty to her children, she is willing to sacrifice the role of motherhood in order to find her independence. Something not a lot of mothers today would be willing to do, or in the Victorian Era. "I have another duty that is equally sacred". "My duty to myself". (880). Understanding that she cannot be true to herself, she cannot be true to her children. With Nora, Ibsen gave Victorian women a role model. She stood up to her husband and demand equality. Nora experiences a great awakening and finds courage to walk out. Unfortunately, many women of that time do not have Nora's independence or courage. Although she may be applauded for breaking down traditional barriers, Nora will not find the freedom she seeks. During that time, the Victorian woman was the symbol of family. By closing that door, Nora shattered that symbol. By representing a divorced woman and seeking independence, Nora no longer belongs in society.
Henrik Isben did not seek to be a pioneer in feminism. However, with Nora Helmer he did just that. She was a character that walked out the front door seeking a workplace cure for her identity crisis and many women could relate. However, as a mother that sacrifice is not one that Victorian woman makes. Ibsen call's his 'Doll's House' a Realist work but in terms nineteenth century feminism it is a far stretch.