A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, is a well written play portraying women’s struggle for independence and security in the nineteenth century. The drama revolves around Nora, a traditional housewife, who struggles to find a way to save her husband’s life while battling society’s norms. Her decision to forge a check to help her husband, Torvald, went against the patriarchical laws of that time: her plan was to borrow money and save her ill husband’s life. Krogstad, the antagonist, discovers her deceit and threatens to expose her lies.
As a result, the protagonist is torn between telling the truth to her husband or attempting to cover it up to save her marriage. In the following analysis, I’ll discuss Torvald and Nora’s relationship and Torvald’s general view of women. In addition, I will evaluate his attraction to Nora, focusing on his attitude on treating like a doll, or a child. Lastly, I’ll discuss how and why Torvald spoils Nora by giving her what she wants. Torvald and Nora’s relationship appears to be more of a father-daughter relationship rather than a traditional husband-wife relationship.
He spoils her, and further, finds reason to rain affection on her: “He goes up to her and takes her playfully by the ear. ” Torvald views the effeminate, dainty Nora as a child, and refuses to take her seriously. His view was very much like male dominant view of women in that era: women were innocent, naiive, little “skylarks” and “squirrels” who were helpless and vulnerable. Torvald also believes the measure of a women is her man and he reinforces that view when he toys with Nora, “There you are. Gives her money] Do you think I don’t know what a lot is wanted for housekeeping at Christmas-time? ” This example illustrates his control over Nora. Despite her asking for money, Torvald playfully lectures her, but ultimately hands her the money and fulfills her desires. His playfulness is another facet of the dominant male symbol, playing games with a women’s mind to prove his manly independence. There are other instances where Torvald reinforces the patriarchical view of European society.
For example, when Nora and Torvald were discussing money and loans, Nora mentions that she wouldn’t bother with people who lend her money. Torvald replies, “That is like a woman! ” His statement is key to understanding their relationship. Nora reinforces the husband-daughter paradigm by playing the role of a naiive wife, which Torvald easily falls for. And when Nora brings up Krogstad, Torvald is even more surprised by her comments: “Nora, Nora, and you would be a party to that sort of thing? And to tell me a lie into the bargain? Torvald believes that Nora should be under his influence; thus, a dominant male’s influence. His idealistic view of women reinforces his manly independence persona towards Nora and proves that he is of touch with play’s reality. He also states his opinions about the upbringing of “morally corrupted” people. Torvald lays the blame on their mothers saying, “Almost everyone who has gone to the bad early in life has had a deceitful mother. ” Torvald is close minded and believes strongly that morally corrupt is due to mistakes of a female’s (mother’s) upbringing.
Simultaneously, Torvald is attracted to Nora, because she gives him all the credit and feeds his ego. He strongly believes that without him, she would not be able to live her life. When Nora asks Torvald to go to the fancy-dress ball, he replies,” Aha! So my obstinate little woman is obliged to get someone to come to her rescue? “. Torvald enjoys being her hero, which reinforces his manly independence. Time and again, he is there to ‘save’ her. To be clear, Nora does not stop Torvald possessiveness over her, explaining “Torvald is so absurdly fond of me that he wants me absolutely to himself. Nora is an object he owns and controls, while Nora continues to take her role as damsel-in-distress. Nora plays perfectly the role of a young doll in a play house. Torvald treats her like a child, which allows her to exploit him. She continually manipulates him for her desires. When Nora, “[Smiling quietly and happily] You haven’t any idea how many expenses we skylarks and squirrels have, Torvald. ” Whether its societal pressure or her own views, Nora allows herself to be treated like a child and allows her husband to feel as if he’s in control of their elationship. She admits that she acts the way she is, because she thinks of, “How painful and humiliating for Torvald, with his manly independence; to know that he owed me anything! It would upset our mutual relationship”. Its ironic to realize that their entire relationship is based on lies. Torvald’s main priority is to thrust his manly independence and power over Nora, as both play the part of actors in society’s drama. Torvald challenges Nora’s attitude and character in the hope of having her fit his idealistic view of women.
Torvald wants an out-of-touch-with-reality Nora in his life. As Nora explains, “Torvald can’t bear to see dress making going on. ” Torvald does not want to see Nora as an independent and rebellious woman. Her true self is quite different to what she portrays, yet she continuously plays this character that Torvald will agree with. Torvald later forgives Nora for bringing up the topic of Krogstad employment: “because it is such eloquent witness to your great love for me. ” This clearly shows that their relationship is ruled by the more powerful character.
Torvald wants Nora to be this weak and submissive woman by spoiling her so that he ends up reinforcing his manly independence. He even says,”I am man enough to take everything upon myself. ” He is taking credit from their relationship, and doesn’t give Nora any credit, because she’s a woman. She is only there to compliment him and feed his ego. However, Torvald is concerned when he sees Nora all worn out, “But dear Nora, you look so worn out. Have you been practicing too much? ” Here, Torvald thinks that Nora’s worn out, because of practicing the tambourine.
The truth is that Nora is worn out because of practicing her character to suit Torvald’s life and attempting to save her marriage. Ibsen’s A Doll House proves to be a critique of the traditional roles of men and women in 19th Century marriage. Nora treated by her father as a doll-like child, continues to be treated by her husband in the same way. This is how we begin to understand how Torvald spoils Nora as an act of reinforcement of his manly independence rather than an act of love.
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