Analysis and Evaluation of the Relationship Between Nora and Torvald as Portrayed in a Dollshouse

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Analysis and Exploration of the relationship between Nora and Torvald as portrayed in A Doll’s House

As a reader, the relationship between Torvald and Nora seemed really interesting to me. While it appears one way on the surface, it is very different essentially. I chose to study this because I think, there is a great deal to explore in order to try and understand the marital dynamic between Nora and Torvald. There are so many things that go into why a relationship is theone that it is but I will focus on three very influential aspects in the book– the Victorian gender roles, societal expectations and the idea of image, as well as the individual personalities and beliefs both the spouses held. In assessing the relationship which Torvald and Nora share, it is most significant that we consider the Victorian gender roles at the time. In a time such as that one, both Torvald and Nora would be pressured and bred to mold themselves according to these gender rules. When you’re raised a certain way and it is ingrained in you that you are expected to be a certain way, you will. Additionally, they would also expect their spouse to do the same. In Victorian times, there were two clear roles that a man and woman were supposed to play in a marriage. Essentially, the man was responsible for protecting, guarding and most of all, ensuring financial security for his wife. This can be observed in A Dollshouse several times. A blatant example is how Nora receives all her spending money from Torvald. Like a child, she receives allowances and sums of money to take care of the household expenses as well as for herself. To exemplify, I extracted an interaction between the couple that takes place when Torvald presents Nora with a sum of money. “ Nora: Torvald, Thank you! This’ll keep me going for a long time! Torvald: Well, you must see that it does.”

As a husband, Torvald also restricts her from doing things which he thinks aren’t good for her but she likes to do and these can be as trivial as eating macaroons. To quote Torvald, when he’s questioning Nora about whether or not she’s eaten macaroons and she denies the accusation, Torvald says “No, I know you wouldn’t, besides you’ve given me your word”. This little instance goes a long way in portraying his role in the relationship as someone who controls her and who is supposed to determine her actions. Another instance when Torvald acts according to his gender role is when he feels he needs to guide Nora to teach her how to dance for the Tarantella. And not only does he do that, but he revels in this role. When Nora presents a façade of desperately needing Torvald’s help to dance the tarantella, he says “This evening, I’ll be wholly and entirely at your service- you poor, helpless creature”. This leads me to talk about a womans role in the Victorian society and how it influences Nora in her relationship with her husband. If a husband was expected to provide for his wife, similarly, a woman was supposed to live it in gratitude and forever indebted to him. She was to abide by his standards and keep the house comfortable for him and essentially, be in his service all the time. This can really be observed in A Dolls House where Nora is constantly trying to be the ideal wife to Torvald. In Act 2 of the play, we can quote Nora saying to Kristina- “Sh! Here’s Torvald coming back. Look, go in and sit with the children for a bit- Torvald cant bear to see dressmaking.” She’s perpetually trying to appear a certain way, but to her own husband in her own home. When she’s undergoing hardships like when she was working because when they were in debt or when she’s distraught, she never lets him realize it. As a reader, one can observe this when Nora is describing to Kristina how she could not tell Torvald of her loan and says “ [Torvald] would be terribly hurt and humiliated if he thought he owed anything to me. It’d spoil everything between is, and our lovely happy home would never be the same...
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