Ibsen realistic drama of conversation explores how power and control in relationships can have lasting effects on couples. The dominance and tension between Nora and her protagonist husband Torvald present some of the conventional roles of both men and women in the 19th century. (Ibsen 12).
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll in the House was written in 1879 about a middle-class family in the suburban of Europe. The story depicts a female protagonist Nora. Nora is treated like a doll in her house becoming more of a helpless little bird. The controversy arises when the social norms are challenged; Nora evolves throughout the play from being a submissive housewife to a more liberated woman. Compared to her husband Torvald who eventually become helpless when Nora walks away from the relationship. Even though Nora plays a role of a typical housewife, she reveals many dimensions that a typical woman during that time could not be portrayed. Nora initially, seems to be submissive and a childish woman, but with time Nora become an independent thinker (Ibsen 18).
Throughout the story marriage problems are apparent; women are oppressed and treated as the subordinate sex. Torvald’s character portrays a typical male of his time; he uses words like; “little squirrel” and “my little lark must drop her wings like that “such statement makes the audience feel as if he is talking to the little child and portrays women as pets (Ibsen 76). Nora’s husband Torvald does not view her as an equal partner; instead, he looks at his wife as a doll. In certain instance, Torvald makes Nora dress up and dance for him, in his mind Nora is like a play thing but not a wife. Torvald is more concerned about his financial status and reputation but with time, he fell sick because of overworking (Ibsen 79).
However Nora still devotes herself to Torvald despite being treated this way, she saves Torvald’s pride by borrowing money to pay for a trip that would save his life from Mr.Ktosgtad without her husband consent. Nora forged his fathers’ signature to get money in time to save her husband (Ibsen 86).
Nora ‘s perfect role of a housewife gradually transforms, and the story becomes more fascinating when Krogstad starts to blackmail Nora by insisting that he persuades her husband not to fire him at the bank. At the same time, Nora is paying for something that did not benefit her; she did all this forgery to save her husband. Her secret shows her strength as she can carry the burden of debt alone (Ibsen 84). This is an extraordinary sacrifice Nora makes, having no stable income and two children she manages to find balance in life by working to ensure that she pays back the debt. This shows bravery and determination making her an admirable character in the story (Ibsen 93).
In the long run, Torvald finds out about the debt and Nora’s forgery. He becomes infuriated with her, but Nora defends her position and her actions by reflecting back how she had been obedient. Nora finally realizes that she had been nothing more than a puppet to her husband to be used for entertainment. As the story comes to an end there are significant changes seen in both Nora and Torvald, Nora realizes that she has been like a human living in a dolls house. After realizing this Nora roles changes, she becomes more powerful and on the other hand, her husband becomes weaker. Torvald even begs her saying “I’d be glad to work for you day and night.” When Nora states that “there has to be absolute freedom for both of us” and give back the ring (Ibsen 102).
Torvald did not trust his wife even after eight years of marriage, after reading Krogstad’s letter; Torvald called Nora a hypocrite and stated that she cannot raise their children. Torvald attempts to dismiss his past claims after learning that Nora forged his father’s signature to borrow some money. This makes Nora realize how she was being treated like a doll; she decides to leave Torvald. Torvald surrenders to this situation and breaks down. Nora eventually leaves the house as she tried to understand herself (Ibsen 97).
Initially, Nora viewed freedom as gaining more wealth and being economically stable, but her life revolves around her financial situation and more on material wealth. Nora goes on shopping trips and comes home with packages (Ibsen 43).Since she belongs to the higher social class, she would like to spend more money to show off her status. She pays double price for an item all items she could buy. Nora with time realizes that despite freeing herself from debt and having a lot of money does not guarantee her the freedom she wanted. To gain her freedom she leaves her husband claiming that she needed to be free from her husband to understand herself and also learn more about life. In the end, Torvald is left helpless after the separation from their marriage which was not the usual case during that time (Ibsen 104).
In conclusion, even though Nora is always portrayed as a submissive woman, she only comes to realize her capability at the end. A doll house reinforces the power of women and the weakness of men, and the negative effects in the long run as portrayed by Torvald and Nora in the story.