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A Dollhouse, written by Henrik Ibsen, showcases a constant battle that the main character, Nora Helmer, must face with her husband in order to yield some sort of independence for herself. Referred by her husband, Torvald, as his "squirrel" or his "skylark," Nora is seen as his subordinate, immature child rather than a wife. Nora transforms from a woman lacking a sense of identity due to oppression from Torvald to a woman who realizes that she must become completely independent in order to overcome the repression she has faced from her father and husband.
Evident from the beginning of the play, Nora acts childish with her husband, while also storing a hidden need for independence. After returning from Christmas shopping and snacking on a few macaroons, Nora is confronted by Torvald whether she has been indulging on the sweets. Nora feels the need to whole-heartedly deny her consumption of the dessert. "No, what makes you think that? ...No, I assure you, Torvaldâ€¦no, certainly notâ€¦." (Pg. 1670, ln. 60) Nora's response with such a petty lie not only reveals her childlike qualities, but also reveals a hidden rebel pining for release. When in sight of her husband, Nora tends to behave very playfully and obediently, hoping not to displease Torvald. "I should not think of going against your wishes." (Pg. 1670, ln. 66) Rather than communicate with her husband as equals, Nora indulges Torvald's feeling of superiority and diminishes her own free will.
Although Nora is represented as a sheltered, loyal child, the emergence of her self-independence is evident when she takes responsibility of her debt to Krogsted. On the other hand, Nora finds it necessary to conceal her work from her husband, and also lie about her time spent working in isolation. Believing that her love for Torvald equals that of his love for her, Nora becomes proud of her sacrifice for Torvald, thinking that he would do the same for her. After confronted by Krogsted, who explains to her that forgery is against the law, Nora believes that she has the "right to save her husband's life" (pg. 1683, ln. 410) and uses this as a means of justifying her crime. Ignorant of the way of law in the real world, Nora is oblivious to the possible consequences of her forgery not only to her reputation, but also to her husband's reputation.
Nora finds the comfort and freedom to express herself in her childhood friend, Mrs. Linde. "What if Torvald heard? He mustn't, for anything in the world. Nobody must know Kristine, no one but you." Mrs. Linde's practical view on life acts as a counter-play to Nora's childish approaches to life. Acting as an escape valve from her suppressed life, Nora is able to tell her problems to Mrs. Linde. Nora's friendship with Mrs. Linde becomes one of the motives that convince Nora to be honest with Torvald. The ability to release her guilt to Mrs. Linde further showcases Nora's success in the real world and also gives Nora hope in finding help in others. Nora's transition is finally completed as she decides to leave Torvald, her children, and her home behind. In the scene before she exits her home, Nora realizes that Torvald has never loved her for who she is, but rather, he loved her for the role she played in his "dollhouse." Although Torvald forbids Nora from leaving the house, Nora tells him that he cannot force her to do anything as she has deleted all of her dependence on him. Nora feels alienated from the world, only limited to serving in Torvald's dollhouse. Thus, she decides to leave his dollhouse and go forth into the world for herself, to start a new life by herself. Nora's emphatic exit with slamming the door concludes the play and exhibits the first evidence of her newly refined character.
Knowing that she can only make the changes for her life as an independent woman, Nora decides to leave her life behind. Nora realizes that her marriage is a sham and that there are people in the outside world willing to help her, that she does not need Torvald to act as her guardian. In addition, she finally decides to leave Torvald for the sake of her children; Nora does not see herself fit to raise her children until she has finally grown up. Nora realizes that she cannot find herself until she lives an independent life with a self-determining will. Nora transforms from a woman restricted by her condescending husband into a woman confident to start her life over.