Most Important Issues in “A Doll’s House”
A Doll’s House is a play that was written by 1879 by Henrik Ibsen, a playwright from Norway. The play has three acts. It mainly focuses on the life of Nora, a housewife who feels frustrated by her position and status in society. She feels like she is a prisoner to her husband Torvald Helmer. Nora has to make the hard choice between staying in the marriage and leaving, and she decides to leave as the play ends. The play was first staged on December 21st 1879 at the Royal Theatre in Denmark, on the same month of its publication.
The playwright uses much symbolism to bring out different aspects of the characters in the play. The symbols bring out character, but it also adds realism to the writing. In this play symbolism is all over, just from the title of the play. The term “Doll” in this case referring to Nora paints a picture of a woman who lives live without making any decisions by herself. She is just there to please her husband who views her as a child and his possession.
Ibsen also uses symbolism to point out various characteristics and themes he intends to highlight in the play. Dr. Rank is used to symbolize dishonest friendships that are common in everybody’s lives. Ibsen uses the Christmas tree and presents to represent the materialistic nature of Nora. She loves material possessions and the Christmas tree delivered to her house is a good representation of her character. Secrecy and power balance between Helmer and Nora is another realistic element of the play through the symbolism of the locked mailbox. It shows how they hide things from each other though they are in a marriage.
Nora eats macaroons but keeps it a secret from her husband who does not approve of her eating them. The act symbolizes the deception on the part of Nora. She secretly does things her husband is against, also symbolizing rebellion. The dance shows how much Nora conforms to her husband’s demands even when she is not comfortable with it, just to make him happy.
Nora’s black shawl is an indication that she is sad and tired of life. She wears it after she decides to commit suicide, signifying her desire to die since black is a color associated with sadness, death and mourning. When she changes clothing from the multi-colored shawl to the black one, this symbolizes that Nora’s life is changing from a happy one to a sad one. The slamming of the door at the end of the play stands for the transition from living under someone’s rules to a new world of individual freedom.
Nora Helmer is the character at the centre of all the ongoing events as the play develops. She feels that her husband is imprisoning her in their house. Her husband, Torvald, is a bank manager, and this makes Nora look inferior to him. Nora appears as a fragile woman who is not in a position to handle the pressures of life efficiently. She moves from the care f her father into the care of her husband. As a result, she is materialistic because all her life she has been used to being protected and provided with all she needs.
The question whether Nora is a victim of circumstances or a villain who brings problems is a tough choice to make. Nora plays an inferior role compared to her husband. He expects her to live up to his expectations of loving and caring wife. Torvald is a man who is more worried about his reputation and how he appears in public more than he cares about his marriage with Nora. Nora is a victim of circumstances, living a life where all her decisions are made for her by her controlling husband.
Whenever she tries to raise her concerns on this habit, her husband changes form the man who addresses her in sweet names and starts insulting her for being a woman. Here she seems to be a victim of her husband’s position in society. Nora is only seen to cause trouble by keeping the money she borrowed from Krogstad a secret from her husband.
For a woman her age, Nora is too relaxed about life. She lives in a comfort zone since all she is worried about is being loved and pampered by her husband. She also comes out as flirtatious, and lives life in ignorance and oblivion, assuming that all things are perfect as they should be. When she Nora finally realizes that things are not working out as she expects them to, she rediscovers herself and approaches life more maturely than before. She takes control of her life and stops playing victim. Ibsen’s view is that Nora is a victim of circumstances, whose life is controlled by her husband. Through the play, he produces Nora into a mature woman who makes better choices including leaving her tough husband at the end of the play.
“Role playing” in the Helmer marriage is brought out by both Nora and her husband Torvald. Nora first makes an impression of a materialistic, obedient and submissive wife while in the real sense she is just playing this role to portray the image her husband expects of her. Torvald, on the other hand, plays a wealthy, respectable husband while in the actual sense he is just doing so to protect his reputation. Behind closed doors, he is rude and even insults his wife, treating her like a child instead of a wife.
Torvald refuses to give Krogstad back his job simply because it is his wife Nora who asks him to, and he is of the view that he should not give in to demands from his wife. His action brings out his character as a male chauvialist who despises advice even when it is worth following just because it is coming from a woman. Later on in the play Torvald insinuates that his marriage to Nora is failing, but he tells Nora that they should act as the marriage is still strong. Here it can be seen that Torvald is more worried about what people see him be than the well being of his marriage.
Ibsen’s play also shows how undesirable traits are passed down from one generation to the next. The play mainly focuses on corruption and weakness. Nora is seen to be cunning and materialistic, just like her father who is also suspicious and spends his money haphazardly. Dr. Rank says he inherited a back problem from his father, and a diagnosis confirms this is true. Krogstad is also worried that his bad reputation from his dishonest dealings with Nora might make his children have miserable lives when they grow up. These are examples showing how weakness and corruption are passed from one generation to the next in the play.
The playwright develops character growth as the play progresses. The characters make more mature and better decisions as the play progresses, as best depicted by Nora. Marriage is developed as a complicated union, with its own share of challenges for the couples but the play also highlights their efforts to stand as a family despite all the challenges. Another idea that is developed by the play is social convention. Through the characters for examples Nora and her husband Torvald, we see the struggles that they go through just to put up a positive perception of themselves to society. The seriousness of social convention is comes out clearly when they accept that their marriage has failed, but Torvald insists they should hide their problems from the public and act like everything is okay.
Through the play, Ibsen highlights many important issues ranging from family conflicts, gender based conflicts, corruption, rebellion and self realization. The playwright paints a vivid picture of character development especially with his good use of imagery, mostly symbolism.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Dolls House. Rockville, Md: Serenity Publishers, 2009. Print.