Nora and Torvald’s Relationship in “A Doll’s House”
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House illustrates a home that most wives, like the main character, Nora, live in. As a family, Torvald and Nora, along with their three children, appear to be a perfect example of a happy home. This, unfortunately is not at all the case as Ibsen illustrates how unhealthy the relationship that Torvald and Nora live as husband and wife.
As a man, Torvald looks at himself as a superior being who should not just looks after and provides the needs of his family, but also controls their lives according to the standards of the society where the woman’s role as an individual is not recognized. Being the head of the family, the man should make sure the wife does not humiliate his manhood. Theirs was a relationship where a wife’s opinion is neglected. The narrow-mindedness of Torvarld shuts Nora out and confines her roles to one that should say nothing but amuse her husband – thus knowing nothing more of herself than being associated with her husband. Just as she was when her father was still alive, Torvald treated Nora like a child who should be told what to do and what not to do. Using pet names to call her make him feel he could make his wife do whatever he wants her to do, that goes from depriving her of sweets, such as macaroons, to borrowing a huge money. He thinks of his wife as an immature individual who by calling her with pet names and giving her money would keep her from arguing with him.
Without thinking much of herself, Nora wishes nothing but to make sure her family is happy, especially her husband. Knowing his husband’s ‘independence,’ and strong opinion about the roles of women in the household, she made sure she does not disappoint him. Her role is simply to please her husband and the society who expects nothing more than a finely dressed and pleasant wife of a man in Torvald’s profession. So, even though she finds it difficult to save as much money to pay for the loan she mad in her father’s name to pay for Torvald’s recovery in Italy, she would not let her husband know about so as to avoid humiliating him. According to Nora, Torvald is “A man who has such strong opinions about these things! And besides, how painful and humiliating it would be for Torvald, with his manly independence, to know that he owed me anything! It would upset our mutual relations altogether; our beautiful happy home would no longer be what it is now (Schmidt & Crockett 167-231).” She concealed from him what she had done for according to him forgery, even out of necessity, is still guilty for lying and hypocrisy and “how he has to wear a mask in the presence of those near and dear to him, even before his own wife and children. And about the children — that is the most terrible part of it all… Because such an atmosphere of lies infects and poisons the whole life of a home. Each breath the children take in such a house is full of the germs of evil (Schmidt & Crockett 167-231).” As a result, she concealed from him what she thought initially would bring about a ‘wonderful thing’ to happen in the future. After hearing what her husband’s thoughts were of Krogstad’s case, Nora knew her husband would never forgive her of what she had done, thus, eventually feeling herself oppressed.
Unfortunately, there are still married people who are in the same marital status like Torvald and Nora where women’s individuality is suppressed. Probably inherited from the old tradition where women were confined only in the home and relied only on their husbands. Since they stay mainly in the home and do nothing for the community, they tend to keep their opinions to themselves. However, people should realize that marriage is not the oppression of one’s individuality and capabilities. People see women’s roles in the home as duties that they are obliged to do and should never be neglected. Just as Torvald sees his Nora’s sacred duties to him and to her children, man usually sees women’s roles as those what religion dictates. However, couples should realize that in marriage, the man’s role is not just protecting his wife “like a hunted dove that I have saved from a hawks claws,” but letting her be for wives are just as Nora says is, “before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are — or, at all events, that I must try and become one. I know quite well, Torvald, that most people would think you right, and that views of that kind are to be found in books; but I can no longer content myself with what most people say, or with what is found in books. I must think over things for myself and get to understand them (Schmidt & Crockett 167-231).”
Schmidt, Jan Zlotnik & Crockett, Lynne. Portable Legacies: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. 1st ed. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2009: 167-231.