Exploring of the players involved in Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House,’ discloses the core trial confronting Nora and other women of today who are victims of men’s judgments. Most assumptions that men make regarding women conclude that women are blameless and fragile, just because of the term female. Form Ibsen’s play, Nora Helmer is viewed as being childish, and this serves as an example to signify women who live in symbolic ‘doll houses.’ However, as the play nears the end, Nora demonstrates her drive and the need to be a real and independent woman; part of which today’s women also demonstrate. Nora’s transition represents the struggles endured by the modern-day woman in fighting for their rights and freedom.
To disseminate Nora’s character successfully, we must first consider the challenges women faced during her time. Elaine Fortin argues that in the 19th century, a wife’s main role was to complement her husband to reflect credit on both of them. (Fortin). The writer delivers this idea through the creation of a character such as Nora. Nora’s personality, the introduction, struggles, motivation, and eventual moral learned will be carefully examined. Henrik Ibsen introduces Nora Helmer as the play’s protagonist who is a doll living a luxurious life. While still young, Nora’s father treats her with expensive gifts, and she later experiences the same from her husband. Torvald Helmer, Nora’s husband, uses terms such as ‘my little twittering lark’ (424), and ‘poor little girl’ (427). The image initially created by the author for the audience depicts Nora as Torvald Helmer’s wife. The play begins with Nora returning from an apparent excessive Christmas shopping trip. Her young character is displayed when she starts eating some desserts which she secretly bought.
On the other hand, Nora’s character of being a liar is seen when she wholeheartedly denies her husband claims of sneaking macaroons. Nonetheless, Nora is seen having concerns about where to hide the Christmas tree, away from her children as expressed during her dialogue with Helene: “Hide the Christmas tree carefully, Helene. Make sure the children don’t see it till it’s decorated this evening” (Ibsen). Ibsen also uses the play to indicate Nora’s financial status when she tells Porter, ‘Here’s a krone. No, keep the change’ (Ibsen). Nora exhibits typical connections of a financially stable woman in the 19th century. However, Nora’s interactions with Torvald regarding financial their expenditure demonstrates her vulnerability: “Pooh, we can borrow until then” (Ibsen). Emma Goldman uses the description ‘Light-hearted and gay, apparently without depth. Who, indeed, would expect the depth of a doll, a squirrel, a song-bird’ (Goldman). Observing Goldman’s remarks makes it evident that Nora’s perceived image contrasts with her real character. Maybe the author adopts this technique to make her an authentic character.
From the initial stages of the play, the author gives the audience several clues about Nora. In the beginning, Nora is seen laughing to herself, while she takes off her coat and hat. She goes forth to dip her hand inside her pocket and grabs a packet of macaroons and starts eating them one after the other; then cautiously treads towards the doorway leading to her husband’s room and listens (Ibsen 424). Nora’s behaviors imply that she is able and prepared to do unpleasant things without her husband’s knowledge to fulfill her enjoyment. In the beginning, Nora’s character is considered naive or juvenile. Wade Bradford labels Nora as behaving playfully, yet obedient in his company, continuously asking him for favors instead of interacting as colleagues’ (Bradford). There is a likelihood that Nora is using the favors as a means of survival, and overlooking her previous lapses.
Furthermore, the audience gets the chance to witness Nora’s bright side. Despite the audience thinking that Nora was using her money inconsiderately, she would rather scrimp and save to pay off a debt. When Torvald becomes sick, Nora forges her father’s signature to acquire a ‘two hundred and fifty pounds’ loan to make payments for ‘a wonderfully beautiful journey to Italy” that will help “save her husband’s life” (Ibsen 429). The fact that she never shares any information with Torvald regarding the loan shows how clever, secretive, and caring she is. When Mrs. Linde inquiries from Nora if she informed Torvald regarding the requested loan, her reply is “Good heavens, no! How could you think so? 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” (432).
The audience now sees Nora as a risk taker who knows how to endure struggles, as well as an independent woman. Before the end of act one, the audience can see Nora’s sly and manipulative character. At a later stage, Mrs. Linde inquires whether Nora will inform Torvald about the loan, and she replies “Yes—someday perhaps, after many years, when I am no longer as nice-looking as I am now. Don’t laugh at me! I mean, of course, when Torvald is no longer as devoted to me as he is now; when my dancing and dressing-up and reciting have palled on him; then it may be a good thing to have something in reserve” (432). Nora makes all these sacrifices believing that her husband would reciprocate the same, but that is not the case because Torvald’s devotion belongs somewhere else. The statement Nora makes shows that she is conscious that Torvald views her just like a simple toy, a trophy, and a doll that serves no other devotions than his enjoyment. Nora fully understands that her husband does not think of her as his wife.
Furthermore, Nora portrays a playful character and her children, instead of taking her as their mother, they see her as much of a playfellow. During her dialogue with her kids, Nora tells them, ‘Come, let us have a game! What shall we play? Hide and seek? Yes, we’ll play hide and seek. Bob shall hide first. Must I hide? Very well, I’ll hide first’ (Ibsen, 437). In such an act, Nora’s children do not see her as a mother, but rather a shared toy.
Nora realizes the significant consequences once the reality is lastly exposed. Torvald uses this opportunity to release his hatred against Nora, in addition to her criminal act of forgery. She comprehends the fact about Torvald being a completely different individual than she the one she had faith in. Torvalds’s intentions are not to bear the responsibility for Nora’s crime. When Nora learns about this, she acknowledges the fact that her marriage was just an illusion. She learns that Torvald only took her as his ‘child-wife’ and his ‘doll” (Ibsen, 432). The play ends with hopeful words from Nora after Torvald decides to end their marriage. The tells Torvald that maybe there is a chance for them to rekindle back the spontaneous fire that their love ignited.
- Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Dover Thrift Edition. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1992.