Critical Analysis of "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was a controversial play for its time because it questioned society's basic rules and norms. Multiple interpretations can be applied to the drama, which allows the reader to appreciate many different aspects of the play. This paper examines how both Feminist and Marxist analyses can be applied as literary theories in discussing Ibsen's play because both center on two important subject matters in the literary work: the roles of women in a male-dominated society, and, the power that money has over people. In Marxism it is believed that a person's thoughts, behaviors and relationships with others are all influenced by the individual’s social class and economic conditions. In addition, the Marxist approach looks at the mechanics of the system where the working class or the subordinates of society are kept powerless and dependent upon the higher classes. A common theme found in A Doll's House, is the exploitation of the weak and the poor by the strong and the rich, and an obsession with material possessions and social status. The characters in the play are all affected by the lack or acquisition of money, and their entire lives and way of thinking are based upon it. In the beginning of the play, Nora’s outlook on life and her desires are completely consumed by wealth and material things. For instance, in Act I when Nora returns home from a shopping trip, she asks her maid to hide the Christmas tree so that the children won’t see it until it’s been decorated. She later asks Trovald for money so that she can “wrap it up in beautiful gilt paper” and hang it on the tree as decorations. The "money ornaments" are just one example of her obsession with money and her need to show off her newfound wealth. Where in the previous year she spent a whole three weeks making ornaments by hand, it is now beneath her to work so hard and she feels that she can afford to get carried away with her spending. She even tells the tree delivery boy to keep the change from the shilling she gave him, which was double what he asked for. Even though Torvald isn’t due to receive his raise for another few months, Nora insists that they can borrow until then, when before she and Torvald saved every penny, and they both worked odd jobs in order to get by. Now that her financial situation has improved Nora also seems more selfish, claiming that if something were to happen to Torvald after they had borrowed money, “it just wouldn’t matter” because the people they borrowed from are strangers. Now that she belongs to a higher social class she doesn’t care about her obligation to pay back her creditors; she is only focused on what she can extract from other people. When Nora's old friend Mrs. Linde comes over, the first thing Nora mentions to her is Trovald’s promotion at the bank, and says that she feels so light and happy because they will now have "heaps of money" and not a care in the world . When Mrs. Linde replies that it would be nice to have enough for the necessities, Nora insists that it wouldn't suffice- she wants “heaps and heaps of money”. (1.117-119). Nora then reveals that Trovald had been ill and she borrowed money for a trip to Italy to help him recover. She goes on to mention that it was very difficult for her to scrape together money in order to pay the loan back, but it no longer matters—because now she is "free". She associates freedom with the acquisition of wealth, saying that having money is the only way she can be carefree and happy. By the end of the play, however, Nora realizes that even if she is able to be free of her debts, she is still financially enslaved to her husband, because as a woman she is completely dependent on him. She refers to leaving him as “a settling of accounts” (3.266), and in doing so she not only abandon's her marital vows but also her financial dependence because she discovers that personal freedom is not measured in economic...
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