Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House” waswritten and published in 1879, the play itself is based sometime in the samedecade according to several websites found online. It is said to be set inNorway about an upper-middle class family. (Cron) This play has cultural and historicalcontext. Though this story we find the roles that women played at this time inNorway and around the world, the cultural norms of the time as well as the deceptionthat can be found in a family. This play can be portrayed as a drama, tragedy,and/or realism not just drama because it is a play, but the fact that thestoryline is based on a families’ drama, and the issues they face. The social corruptionis the tragedy that takes place, and the realism is the gender roles that are presentedthroughout this play. The roles of these women, obligations, and sacrifices thatare shown throughout are historically correct as well as the economic/ socialconditions at the time.
Through this the realism of this piece of work is shownin a third persons prospective. Although this story is already a playit seems to be a play in itself, the main character Nora, has two separate personalitiesshown throughout. Nothing is what it seems to be; she starts off as a wife whoseems to act immature and selfish, almost like a child. As the plot moves alongit is very quickly realized that she is not that person.
She is a very strongand independent woman that is capable of more than what everyone believes. Asthe play progresses we learn that she has been secretly paying off a loan thathelped save her husband’s life, using money that her husband Torvald has givenher to buy clothes or whatever she asks for. She tells us in the play she neverspent more the half of the money Torvald gave her and that she found other waysto make some money on the side. (Ibsen, 685-697) She used this money to puttoward her loan. Krogstad, the man thatlent the money to Nora to pay for the trip to Italy is now blackmailing her becausehe found out that she forged her father’s signature. Krogstad puts a letter ina locked letter box at the Helmer house and when Torvald reads it and finds outthe truth he becomes a different person then he is portrayed to be in thebeginning of the play.
He went from a loving generous husband to a shallow manworried about his reputation and what people will think of him instead ofprotecting the burden that Nora has faced. The marriage, just like Nora’s personalityat the beginning of the play, is fake and full of lies. They are both justplaying a role. The blackmailer, Krogstad seems tobe bitter and angry when he spoke to Nora; but when Mrs. Linde went to see him totalk about the letter it is discovered that they once were in love with eachother. Mrs. Linde’s husband has died and she tells Krogstad that she is stillin love with him, making him over joyed and no longer bitter. Because of thishe says he will request for the letter back, but Mrs.
Linde says that he shouldleave the letter so the lying in that family would stop. That same night we findout that Dr. Rank will soon die and that he visited the Helmer residenceeveryday not to be friends with Torvald but because he was in love with Nora.
Each of these characters seem toplay a role that is not truly them, though this we see that the appearance ofeach person is not the reality of who they really are. Nora is a symbol for theway women were treated during the 19th century, like a possession oftheir fathers and once married, to their husbands. Torvald has given Noranicknames such as songbird or squirrel, something you would nickname a child.
Also giving his the possession over her, keeping her spirit as a child justlike her father did. He portrays Nora as some innocent mindless women who wasteher time and money on foolish things. The title “A Doll’s House,” can be interpretedin different ways. It can represent the life of women, the fact that their husbandshave full control over them, like dolls that children play with. Or, it can berepresented as a doll’ house, fake and lifeless, without a brain, just like thefalse life that the player gives to the doll, referring to the women of the Norwegiansociety. Both Nora’s father and her husband treated her as a doll, giving herthe role as the doll in a doll’s house.
Playing with her when they please for theiramusement. This is often the role women played in their everyday lives with theirspouses, causing a deception between what they act like and who they reallyare. In this story the women are not the only ones this happens to. Each character is involved invarious forms of deception, it seems to happen because they want to gain socialacceptance or their peer group. Nora like previously stated, has hid the factthat she has a loan out and hides the fact that she eats sweets because shedoes not believe that he will tolerate such actions. She does not believe thathe will accept the truth about their marriage as well; Torvald tries to swindleboth himself and Nora when he claims in all sincerity that he would take uponany burdens that would come to Nora.
Through reading the play we find out asreaders that this is not the case. This claim is made from his lack ofself-knowledge of the reality of the marriage that him and Nora have. Dr. Rankdoes not let Torvald know that he is sick because he feels like he would not beable to handle it.
Another deception of a character is when we find out thatMrs. Linde and Krogstad use to lovers, she portrays herself as an independentwoman but we come to find out that she had left the love of her life for financialsecurity. It is known in history women werenot treated equal with men, and Ibsen does a great job in portraying what thesewomen had to sacrifice every day. Not being able to be their own individual butbeing the person that their father and then husbands wanted them to be. Thiswas the reality of society and it shown in the play when Torvald is talking toNora about Krogstad’s job and he tells her that he would not want his otheremployees thinking that his wife has an influence on his decisions.
(Ibsen) It is also known that women were notallowed to have control over money, they had to have a male authorize the moneysituation, being the reason why Nora forged her father’s name. Women couldn’t justgo to any man to conduct business, it had to be either their husband, brother,or father. She unjustly went over her husband and forged her father’s signatureafter he had already been decided for days, she naively thought no one wouldfind out.
The only reason Mrs. Linde could control herown money was because she was single, not only was she just single but she wasa widow. She may have been able to obtain a job and have the rights to her ownmoney, but the opportunities were limited and were little to no pay. At the end of the play Nora findsthe confidence and strength to tell Torvald that she no longer wants to bemarried to him. That their whole marriage was a lie, and that they did notunderstand one another. She tells him that he has treated her like a doll forthe past 8 years and that she would take it no longer.
Divorce is an option forthem but it is frowned upon and it caused social humiliation. Through this wesee that Torvald wanted to just stick it out and pretend to be in a happymarriage, rather than getting a divorce because he knew that it would make himlook bad. Torvald was just worried about his reputation and not what was goingto make Nora happy, showing how self-centered he really is.WhenNora decided that she was going to leave Torvald she said, that “she wanted tomake sense of herself and everything around her.” (Ibsen) No longer willing tomake any more sacrifices for Torvlad, as she did before as well as the otherfemale characters involved in this play.
By Nora leaving she makes one last sacrifice,that is one of the self-centered decision she makes throughout the play isactually leaving Torvald. By leaving him she is leaving her children that sheloves behind to discover who she really is. Mrs. Linde had to sacrifice hertrue love, Krogstad, to marry a man that she did not love but that could financiallysupport her and her dependent relatives in ways that Krogstad could not. The Nurse to give up her own child, we findthis out when her and Nora sit down and talk, Nora ask how she did it and howshe can only imagine having to give up her child. She had to give up her childto be able to look after other people’s children in order to survive herself.
Dueto the fact that she had her baby out of wedlock, she feels blessed to have thejob that she does because she committed such a sin. In this play we see the impact thatsociety has on the actions and personalizes of the individuals of the play,each character has suffered or altered their way of living because of the statusquo. The Nurse shows how society was in the 1870’s, one youthful mistake canaffect an individual for the rest of their life. When A Doll’s House first came out it quickly became controversial overthe views of marriage and family in this play.
It exposed how men truly treatedtheir spouses, showing that the man had an empty heart. People began to getoffended by the play because it was realistic, and it may give more women the ideathat they could walk out on their families. This was completely against socialnorms.