The play A Doll's House was written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen and has been considerd by many critics to be his masterpiece. The play was generally highlighting ibsen's concern for the rights of women in particular. The play was originally written in Norwegian therefore there has been controversy among scholars over the English translation of the title. Some say A Doll House is a more accurate translation than the common title A Doll's House. Leaving this argument to the scholars this paper aims at bringing out an analysis and opinion on this work by Henrik Ibsen. To approach that has been employed in this analysis is that of looking at the characterization of the major characters and looking at the major themes that are being addressed by the play.
Nora is the protagonist of the play is at first depicted as this happy, playful and naÃ¯ve wife. Akin to the title of the play, Nora seems to be enjoying the pampering and patronization that comes from her husband. She seems to be happy in her 'doll-like' existence. However as the play ensues we see her continually engage in small acts of rebellion that demonstrate to us that she is not as innocent and happy as she appears. She is no longer just the 'silly' girl that Torvald keeps referring to. We see Nora possessing courage and determination that goes beyond the 'simple' duties of wifehood. The fact that she broke the law and took on debt to help her husband overcome his ill health is a brave act. Then she goes ahead to repay the loan secretly, manifests her determination and ambition.
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When Krogstad comes to the Helmer's home and tries to arm-twist her so as to preserve his job, Nora eyes begin to be opened. The trauma she experiences under Krogstad's blackmail enable Nora to discover that she is underappreciated and that she has unfulfilled potential. It becomes clear to her that she has been living under pretext all along so as to fulfill the role that society expects of her. She tells Torvald, "I have been performing tricks for you," which in this case imply that she has been dancing to his tune all through her marriage. Nora's final awakening occurs when Torvald reacts selfishly upon learning that she took on debt to help in his recovery. Her rebelliousness enables her to find strength to confront the oppressive situation within her marriage. She finds courage to walk out and seek independence.
Torvald delights in being in a position of authority, as a husband and at his new position at the bank. As a husband in act one of the play, he is depicted as being kind but patronizing. He does not look at his wife Nora as an equal but as a 'doll' or plaything to be teased and adored. Torvald likes envisioning himself as being Nora's savior which lessens her position before his eyes. He continually refers to her as a 'girl'. In contrast to how he sees himself, Torvald comes out actually being the weaker between him and Nora. He is the one who fell sick and needed the trip to Italy. Also Dr. Rank describes Torvald as one who cannot face up to anything ugly. Dr. Rank sees Torvald as a child who needs to be sheltered from the world's realities.
The play also brings out the aspect that Torvald is overly conscious of his standing in the community and more so how other people perceive him. For example when he accuses Nora of ruining his happiness, he still insists on her to remain in the house to save 'the appearance' of their household. This trait comes out again when Torvald refuses Nora's request that Krogstad be kept on at the office. Torvald refuses on the grounds that it would make him a laughing stock in the office. This is being childish and irrational.
Another major character in the play that we must understand is Krogstad. He is the antagonist in this narrative. He has a contradictory character such that we, the readers, sometimes are compelled to sympathize with him though at most times we despise his character. Krogstad's willingness to allow Nora torment to continue is despicable. However we see that Krogstad is driven to act the way he does because he wants to keep his job at the bank for the sake of his family. Moreover, we see Krogstad discouraging Nora from committing suicide.
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In the play, Krogstad may be the antagonist but is not necessary a villain. He is a man who has been wronged by society. Initially, Mrs. Linde abandoned him for a wealthy man. Additionally, the crime that Krogstad has committed is that of forging signatures, which is a minor crime. The way that society judges him is too harsh. Moreover, society prevents him from moving beyond his past through the stigma that it attaches to his crime.
Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll House was considered very controversial during the late 1800s when it was published. Ibsen was criticized for using the book to disrespect the institution of marriage. However, we now appreciate that Ibsen may have simply begun the role of women in society. The key theme in this A Doll's House is the sacrificial role of women (Moi 225). In Act three, Nora informs Torvald that hundreds of thousands of women sacrifice their integrity for society. The play is replete with examples that draw along this assertion. Nora's nanny had to abandon her child to support herself by working as a nanny. Mrs. Linde had to abandon her true love, whom we are informed was Krogstad, for a wealthy man so that she could be able to support her mother and her two siblings.
Nora may have been more privileged in comparison to the other female characters in the play yet through her we are able to follow how the chain of events necessitated by society sacrifice the role of women. Society dictates that Torvald be the dominant partner and when he falls sick and cannot cater for himself his wife is forced to act. She obtains a loan to take them to Italy for his recuperation but she cannot tell him because it is illegal for a woman to get a loan without her husband's approbation. From this it is clear that society has 'forced' Nora's to lie and it has forced Torvald to have his attitude towards women. This combination of factors leaves Nora vulnerable to Krogstad's blackmail.
We also witness a greater sacrifice where Nora abandons her children. The argument raised here is that Nora believes her nanny would be a better mother for her children. She keeps her children's interest before her own which is almost analogous to the biblical story of Moses getting abandoned by his mother along the River Nile. This is an act of self-sacrifice because in the play we witness Nora's great love for her children from her interaction with them.
Another theme that we can capture from A Doll's House is that of parental and filial obligations. Most characters in the play hold the opinion that a parent must be honest and upright (Mc Farlane, viii). The play seeks to convey the message that a parent's immorality is like a disease that could be transmitted to a child. Dr. Rank for instance suffers from a venereal disease contracted by his philanderer father. Torvald is also shown to be a believer in this school of thought when he tell Nora that nearly all young criminals had lying mothers. Torvald goes ahead to uphold this when he stops Nora from interacting with their children after he learns of her deceit. He does not want her to corrupt them.
Henrik Ibsen in his play also pursues the angle of complexity of filial obligations. He shows us that children are also obligated to look after their parents. Mrs. Linde for instance shunned her true love, Krogstad, and married a rich man whose wealth would help her take care of her sick mother. Nora, on the other hand, sacrificed herself for her sick husband (Sturman 43). She got into debt for the sake of her husband, Torvald.
Over the course ofÂ A Doll's House we encounter a third theme, which is the deceit of appearances. The first impression we get when we meet Nora is that she is a dependent and childish woman. We see how she responds affectionately to Torvald's teasing. However as the play progresses we witness her intelligence and craftiness, she got into debt to aide in her husband's recuperation. By the end of the play, Nora turns out to be a strong -willed, independent and courageous thinker. She is able to make bold decision such as that for walking out of her marriage and her children. On the other hand, as the play commences, Torvald is seen to be a kind and loving husband and father. We see how he greats his wife playfully and affectionately in the opening scene of Act One. By the play's ending we can safely characterise Torvald as being a coward, he fires Krogstad from his job because he fears that he may expose him to a scandal, and we could also refer to him as being selfish because he quickly reprimands his wife for her deceit instead of looking at why she did what she did.
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This theme of unreliability of appearances certainly helps in bringing the play to its climax. At the play's climax we could easily misinterpret the narrative for example the hatred between Krogstad and Mrs. Linde is actually love. So this mean debt-collector and antagonist Krogstad turns out to be just an earnest lover. In fact he repents and returns Nora's contract. On the contrary, Torvald the benevolent husband at the beginning of the play turns out to be a man obsessed with control and his image within society. Torvald's craving for respect drives away his wife and shutters his happiness irreparably.
In conclusion, we are of the opinion that A Doll's House comes out as a realistic portrayal of life and its tragedies. The playwright exposes us to the lives of unexceptional people and demonstrates how our interactions have consequences on each other. We are reminded of the power of choices e.g. Mrs. Linde had the option of marrying his true love or marrying to sustain his sick parent and her two siblings. We also witness the 'folly' of sacrifice that goes unappreciated, e.g. Nora's sacrifice for her husband as well as her husband's selfishness and obsession with his image or standing in society. A Doll's House is therefore not just a moving narrative but an effective tool of communication.