Henrik Ibsen wrote the play “A Doll’s House” on December 21st, 1879. The play’s geographical setting is around the 1870’s in a Norwegian town. The era the play falls in is the Victorian era. In “A Doll’s House” Nora the main character goes through a sense of realization in her marriage with Torvald. We get to see what a women’s role is in this era and how Nora herself evolves into a whole different character from beginning to end. She has her motivations for the way she acts throughout the play and the person she ends up becoming.
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At the beginning of Act 1 we first see Nora tiding up her home and preparing for Christmas Eve. We would first think Nora is just a typical house wife that is only with Torvald for the money and does whatever to please him. Torvald has a controlling personality that will make Nora do whatever he asks her to do. He will call her by pet names and make fun of her for spending her money on unnecessary items. Nora’s old friend from school comes to visit and they catch up on what has been going on in their life. Nora gave me a sense of her showing of to her friend because her husband got a new position in the Joint Stock Bank. Nora says to Mrs. Linden “…I feel so light and happy! Its’s splendid to have lots of money, and no need to worry about things, isn’t it?” (Ibsen 13; Act 1). Mrs. Linde’s husband died and she was left with no money or children whereas Nora has three children and will now have a good amount of money because of her husband’s new position. Nora then continues to talk about her trip to Italy due to her husband being ill. She tells her friend she borrowed money from and admirer but does not want to tell Mrs.Linde who it was she got the money from. A new character comes into the play which leads to Nora’s behavior/attitude changing to being concerned and worried.
The new character that comes into the play is a man named Krogstad who worked at the bank but got laid off for committing a crime. When Nora see’s him you can tell there is some tension going on which makes us think he and she are hiding something. When Krogstad talks to Nora, we find out he is the one who gave her the money to help Torvald get better. In their conversation “She is the subject of a possible blackmail as someone threatens to reveal her true authorial identity” (Teeman). This indicates that Krogstad is blackmailing her because he wants Nora to help him get his job back at the bank. Nora does not want Torvald to find out what she did and she fears Torvald will see her as a different person. Nora is seen throughout the play worried because she has the thought of Krogstad telling Torvald about what she did and about having to face the consequences. We find out that Nora committed a crime as well by forging her father’s signature. This is the reason why Krogstad is blackmailing her but he will stop unless Nora does what he asks. The way Nora is responding to what Krogstad is telling her shows that she is afraid of Torvald finding out. We see that “Torvald and Nora’s relationship is not one of trust and love, but one of oppression and secrecy” (Meadows). Nora keeping secrets and being controlled by him makes me see why she does not what him to find out. She is afraid that he will disappoint him and see her differently.
Nora tells Mrs. Linde about her situation with Krogstad. Mrs. Linde offers to help Nora on talking to Krogstad and having him change his mind. Krogstad and Mrs.Linde have had history before but she left him to be with another man for money. She needed the money to take care of her mother and brothers. Since Nora asked Torvald to give her friend a job he gave her the job that Krogstad wants back but “she still won’t even give up the job she took from him, because she has to look out for herself” (Noelle89). Krogstad was most likely expecting her to give it back but she also needs the money to look after herself. Just because he is a man does not mean Mrs.Linde has to listen to him because she is a woman. It is a good thing that Krogstad isn’t forcing her to leave the job because if it were Nora and Torvald she would listen to him because of how much he has been controlling her without even knowing. Krogstad agrees but by the time he does the letter he wrote to Torvald is already in their mailbox. Nora knows that the letter is in the mailbox and that soon Torvald will not want to deal with her anymore any longer. She tells him “When I’m gone, you will be free” (Ibsen 108; Act 3). She thinks that when he finds out he will be free from her wrong doings and won’t have to care for her anymore. Nora no longer cares if he reads the letter because he already sees that there is something for him to read.
Torvalds reaction towards the letter surprises Nora because she has never seen that side of him. She has never seen it because he is always treating her as a doll or a princess rather than a human being. In this part of the play we get to see what Torvald and Nora’s marriage is all about. As Lauren Meadows says “we never see or hear Nora showing her love to Torvald except when she wants something or is trying to get her way”. This is rather true because she showed love and affection towards Torvald when she asked him to give Mrs. Linde a job. She also did it when she was trying to convince him to not open the mailbox. Torvald tells Nora “You have destroyed my whole happiness. You have ruined my future.” (Ibsen 107; Act 3). He blames Nora for destroying his life but she tells him she committed the crime for love. Nora is trying to look at the goodness in what she did which is to save the man she thinks she loves. Torvald is only seeing this in a negative way whereas he could see it in a positive way that shows Nora trying to save his life. Nora sits silently throughout the time Torvald is getting angry at her. In her mind she is most likely thinking of what to do because she had planned to just run away. She had a conversation with her maid Anna about leaving her children for her to take care of if she were gone. Nora fears her children will forget about her she asks Anna “Do you believe they would forget their mother if she went quite away?” (Ibsen 50; Act 2). She realizes if she leaves, she will have to sacrifice her children and her marriage.
Nora realizes at the end that her marriage isn’t as it used to be and confronts Torvald about it. Torvald receives another letter in the mail from Krogstad saying he won’t do anything with the document and her secret is safe with him. This leads to Torvald acting as if nothing ever happened as if he never got angry with Nora. He claims he is saved but at that point Nora realizes something she never noticed. She tells Torvald “You don’t understand me; and I have never understood you-till to-night” (Ibsen 112; Act 3). She sees that all Torvald cared about was money. She saw that he treated her as a doll and nothing else as her father did too. Nora saw she was being controlled by him and did not have freedom in her marriage. As Noelle89 says “She was a woman seeking independence from the strictures of society and the rule of men which was placed upon her because of gender”. Nora left because she wanted to find the freedom she lost while being married to Torvald for eight years. She wanted to be able to do whatever she wants without having someone tell her what to do, what not to, and what to wear or how to act. She sacrificed leaving her children in exchange to experience what freedom is like.
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In the play “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen he shows the woman’s role in the Victorian era. With his main character Nora, she evolves into this independent woman who realizes she is being controlled by her husband. She chooses to walk out of this marriage which many women would not dare to do. Women back then did not have a voice and for Ibsen to show us in this play was amazing to see how someone can go from being controlled to realizing they were not free.
- Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Dover Thrift Edition. New York: Dover Publications, 1992.
- Meadows, Lauren. “A Psychoanalytic Analysis of Nora and Torvald.” FHS 9 Honors 3, 15 Mar. 2013, //fhs9honors3.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/a-psychoanalytic-analysis-of-nora-and-torvald/.
- Noelle89. “‘A Doll House’ by Henrik Ibsen: A Marxist and Feminist Analysis.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 1 May 2010, //owlcation.com/humanities/Marxist_and_Feminist_analysis_of_A_Doll_House.
- Teeman, Tim. “Laurie Metcalf Leads a Masterful Broadway Sequel in ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’: Ibsen’s Classic Play Saw Heroine Nora Close the Door on an Oppressive Marriage. ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ Asks what Happened if She Returned 15 Years Later.” The Daily Beast Apr 28 2017 ProQuest. 1 Oct. 2019.