Ibsen’s A Doll’s House Essay Essay, Research Paper
“A Doll’s House” is classified under the “second phase” of HenrikIbsen’s career. It was during this period which he made the transition from mythical and historical dramas to plays dealing with social problems.It was the first in a series investigating the tensions of family life.Written during the Victorian era, the controversial play featuring a femaleprotagonist seeking individuality stirred up more controversy than any ofhis other works. In contrast to many dramas of Scandinavia in that timewhich depicted the role of women as the comforter, helper, and supporter ofman, “A Doll’s House” introduced woman as having her own purposes andgoals. The heroine, Nora Helmer, progresses during the course of the playeventually to realize that she must discontinue the role of a doll and seekout her individuality. David Thomas describes the initial image of Nora as that of a dollwife who revels in the thought of luxuries that can now be afforded, whois become with flirtation, and engages in childlike acts of disobedience(259). This inferior role from which Nora progressed is extremelyimportant. Ibsen in his “A Doll’s House” depicts the role of women assubordinate in order to emphasize the need to reform their role in society. Definite characteristics of the women’s subordinate role in arelationship are emphasized through Nora’s contradicting actions. Her infatuation with luxuries such as expensive Christmas gifts contradicts her resourcefulness in scrounging and buying cheap clothing; her defiance ofTorvald by eating forbidden Macaroons contradicts the submission of heropinions, including the decision of which dance outfit to wear, to herhusband; and Nora’s flirtatious nature contradicts her devotion to herhusband. These occurrences emphasize the facets of a relationship inwhich women play a dependent role: finance, power, and love. Ibsenattracts our attention to these examples to highlight the overallsubordinate role that a woman plays compared to that of her husband. Thetwo sides of Nora contrast each other greatly and accentuate the fact thatshe is lacking in independence of will. The mere fact that Nora’s well-intentioned action is consideredillegal reflects woman’s subordinate position in society; but it is heractions that provide the insight to this position. It can be suggestedthat women have the power to choose which rules to follow at home, but notin the business world, thus again indicating her subordinateness. Noradoes not at first realize that the rules outside the household apply toher. This is evident in Nora’s meeting with Krogstad regarding herborrowed money. In her opinion it was no crime for a woman to do everything possible to save her husband’s life. She also believes that heract will be overlooked because of her desperate situation. She fails tosee that the law does not take into account the motivation behind herforgery. Marianne Sturman submits that this meeting with Krogstad was herfirst confrontation with the reality of a “lawful society” and she dealswith it by attempting to distract herself with her Christmas decorations(16). Thus her first encounter with rules outside of her “doll’s house”results in the realization of her naivety and inexperience with the realworld due to her subordinate role in society. The character of Nora is not only important in describing to roleof women, but also in emphasizing the impact of this role on a woman.Nora’s child-like manner, evident through her minor acts of disobedience and lack of responsibility compiled with her lack of sophistication further emphasize the subordinate role of woman. By the end of the play this isevident as she eventually sees herself as an ignorant person, and unfitmother, and essentially her husband’s wife. Edmond Gosse highlights thepoint that “Her insipidity, her dollishness, come from the incessantrepression of her family life (721).” Nora has been spoonfed everythingshe has needed in life. Never having to think has caused her to becomedependent on others. This dependency has given way to subordinateness, onethat has grown into a social standing. Not only a position in society, buta state of mind is created. When circumstances suddenly place Nora in aresponsible position, and demand from her a moral judgment, she has none togive. She cannot possibly comprehend the severity of her decision toborrow money illegally. Their supposed inferiority has created a class ofignorant women who cannot take action let alone accept the consequences oftheir actions. “A Doll’s House” is also a prediction of change from thissubordinate roll. According to Ibsen in his play, women will eventuallyprogress and understand her position. Bernard Shaw notes that when Nora’shusband inadvertently deems her unfit in her role as a mother, she begins to realize that her actions consisting of playing with her children happilyor dressing them nicely does not necessarily make her a suitable parent(226). She needs to be more to her children than an empty figurehead.From this point, when Torvald is making a speech about the effects of adeceitful mother, until the final scene, Nora progressively confronts therealities of the real world and realizes her subordinate position.Although she is progressively understanding this position, she still clingsto the hope that her husband will come to her protection and defend herfrom the outside world once her crime is out in the open. After shereveals the “dastardly deed” to her husband, he becomes understandablyagitated; in his frustration he shares the outside world with her, theignorance of the serious business world, and destroys her innocence andself-esteem. This disillusion marks the final destructive blow to herdoll’s house. Their ideal home including their marriage and parenting hasbeen a fabrication for the sake of society. Nora’s decision to leave thisfalse life behind and discover for herself what is real is directlysymbolic of woman’s ultimate realization. Although she becomes aware ofher supposed subordinateness, it is not because of this that she has thedesire to take action. Nora is utterly confused, as suggested by HaroldClurman, “She is groping sadly in a maze of confused feeling toward a wayof life and a destiny of which she is most uncertain (256).” The one thingshe is aware of is her ignorance, and her desire to go out into the worldis not to “prove herself” but to discover and educate herself. She muststrive to find her individuality. That the perception of woman is inaccurate is also supported by therole of Torvald. Woman is believed to be subordinate to the domineering husband. Instead of being the strong supporter and protector of hisfamily, Nora’s husband is a mean and cowardly man. Worried about hisreputation he cares little about his wife’s feelings and fails to noticemany of her needs. The popular impression of man is discarded in favor ofa more realistic view, thus illustrating society’s distorted views. Ibsen, through this controversial play, has an impact uponsociety’s view of the subordinate position of women. By describing thisrole of woman, discussing its effects, and predicting a change in contemporary views, he stressed the importance of woman’s realization ofthis believed inferiority. Woman should no longer be seen as the shadow ofman, but a person in herself, with her own triumphs and tragedies. Theexploration of Nora reveals that she is dependant upon her husband anddisplays no independent standing. Her progression of understandingsuggests woman’s future ability to comprehend their plight. Her state ofshocked awareness at the end of the play is representative of the awakeningof society to the changing view of the role of woman. “A Doll’s House”magnificently illustrates the need for and a prediction of this change.