A Doll's House, Textual Analysis

Topics: Victorian era, Victorian literature, Victoria of the United Kingdom Pages: 5 (2225 words) Published: December 13, 2012
Textual Analysis of ‘A Doll’s House’ Act III, pp. 96-104 Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ shows a woman turning her back on her husband and her children at the end. It was quite a novelty for a play of the Victorian era to have such an ending for it challenges the society and its norm. In the third act, the protagonist Nora decides to abandon her husband Torvald and her children after seeing her husband’s reaction to a letter, revealing that Nora committed a crime to save her husband’s life. She does not think that her action is a crime because her motivation was love and she thought Torvald would appreciate this. When she realises that he does not she questions her concept of life and her marriage. The following essay will discuss how atypical Nora’s decision is by referring to the historical context. Furthermore, their marriage and their reasons for ending up as strangers to each other will be analysed. Additionally, the essay will examine the reasons behind Nora’s decision to leave her children, even though this was seen as immoral during the Victorian period. Finally, the idea of the alternative ending of the play will be reviewed as well as how the original version could be interpreted. Torvald tries to convince Nora of staying by reminding her of her duties towards her husband and her children. Thinking about the traditional role allocation during the Victorian era, this reaction to her announcement to leave is easily comprehensible. But the problem at this point is that he seems to be too overwhelmed with the proceedings to realise that Nora ‘can’t accept that such laws can be right’ and is willing to put society into question. Therefore his efforts in reminding her of her duties do not work because she does not believe in the system any longer. To understand how atypical her decision for that time is, it is necessary to see this in a historical context. During the Victorian era, the woman’s ‘status was totally dependent upon the economic position of her father and then her husband’. This implies that Nora will have to stand on her own feet as soon as she leaves Torvald. She has to give up her social status and her financial security. Furthermore, ‘young ladies were trained to have no opinions’ (Vicinus, p. x) which in Nora’s case means being Torvald’s doll. ‘I simply took over your taste in everything [...]. I performed tricks for you, and you gave me food and drink’ (p. 98). She never questioned this, until her dollhouse seems to fall apart. Although Nora raised funds to save Torvalds life, he is not thankful at all and is only concerned about his reputation. Realising this, Nora starts to scrutinise the social moral and the predefined role expectations. Referring to the Victorian era, she does this in an atypical way. During her serious talk with Torvald she talks with unusual honesty, since for this time people normally talked quite formal and reserved with each other. Torvald’s question: ‘Did you expect me to drag you into all my worries?’(p. 97) makes it clear that so far they have not talked about something that could upset or cause the other concern. At this stage Ibsen’s message to the audience is that serious talks could prevent problems. In act three it is obvious that Torvald is not able to understand his Nora as the audience does because he is not able to interpret her subtext. When Torvald asks Nora what she is doing, she answers that she is taking off her fancy dress. The fact that Torvald asks her a question without replying himself is already a hint, that something he does not expect is about to happen. Normally Torvald would answer the questions he addresses to Nora himself instead of waiting for her to do so; in this case he is obviously not able to and therefore has to wait for her answer. However, when Nora tells him she would take off her fancy dress, he thinks that she is his ‘frightened little songbird’ (p.96) and would calm down and get her balance again. But...
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