A Doll House
A reader’s initial view of A Doll House is extremely conventional. In the nineteenth century, a women was expected to be a stereotypical subservient house wife. The play portrays Nora as this from the beginning until her awakening. Nora’s “unconventional free and wild thinking” allow the reader to value the work for its encouragement for women to be less of the stereotype and break away from the norm. Nora begins the play as Torvald’s “doll” but ends as an individual thinker by leaving her husband and children. Nora’s awakening allows her to be viewed as a free thinking women for her time. Ibsen’s portrayal of Nora by the end of the play expresses his idea of a women thinking on her own.
The start of the play portrays Nora as Torvald’s pet. Nora follows his every order, does tricks for him, so to speak, and allows Torvald to appear as a parental figure. Their home portrays a common aspect of society at this time. Women were viewed as possessions for men to take care of, and it was thought that women could not survive without the help of a man. This aspect of society is clearly portrayed at the beginning of the play. This almost too conventional portrayal makes Nora appear to be a weak and naive woman. Torvald calls Nora by pet and animal names. In present times, this is almost obnoxious, making the reader want Nora to not allow this. Instead, Nora willingly plays the role of the typical subservient housewife, allowing her to easily be compared to a child. As Torvald gives money to Nora, it seems like allowance being given to a daughter. Nora has had a sheltered life thus far. She has always been taken care of whether it be by her father or Torvald. The reader can recognize this when Nora speaks to Mrs. Linde. Mrs. Linde is going through a rough time in her life, but Nora believes everything can be fixed so easily. She thinks Mrs. Linde should go to a resort to rest when Mrs. Linde is having difficulty even supporting herself financially. Nora appears thoughtless towards Mrs. Linde but most likely is not thinking realistically. Nora believes there are few worries in her life just as children believe nothing bad could ever happen to them. Nora’s secret of taking out a loan and forging her father’s signature was unheard of at this time. This is the first sign of Nora breaking away from the typical ways of society.
Nora continues to be Torvald’s typical wife long after she has taken out the loan, but this reveals her first sign of breaking away from society. Nora may be slightly naïve, but she is not stupid. The reader would not expect Nora to change from the child-like image she has created, but surprisingly, Nora does change when she undergoes an awakening. It is almost as if she grows up and leaves her toys behind. All of Nora’s life, she has been a “doll” to Torvald. She has always seen him as a provider and caretaker until she realizes that he is not the man she thought she knew. Nora expected Torvald to stand up to Krogstad and protect her as he always said he would. When he responds so terribly to what Nora has done, Nora sees that he is not the man that once said he would stand by her no matter what happened. Nora finally wants to make decisions on her own, explore new things, and be her own person. She no longer feels like she needs Torvald or any man for that matter. She is not going to follow society’s plan. Instead, she wants to make her own plan. Nora realizes that her house has been no more than a playroom all of these years, and she is ready to put an end to it all. Torvald tries to remind Nora of her morality, her religion, her job as a mother, and her job as a wife, but Nora believes that she needs to grow up first without Torvald’s help. The words that shocked the world at this time were, “And that’s why I’m leaving you”. As shocking as this was to Torvald, it was just as shocking to the readers because it was not common to write about women being such “free thinkers”. This thinking is central to the work as a whole because Ibsen is opening new ideas to the reader.
Clearly Nora undergoes a change in character through the course of the play. Most people would find this to be a positive change. At the start of the play, Nora is like a child who never went out on her own or left the care of a man. By the end of the play, Nora’s awakening molds her into a woman that inspires others, not to necessarily leave their husbands but to want to find themselves. Ibsen may be surprised how many of his readers were initially shocked about the ending of the play but at the same time, gained courage to think “outside the box”. Readers can value Ibsen’s play for Nora’s “unconventional free and wild thinking” rather than value Nora’s ideal portrayal of women in the nineteenth century.
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