7 Feb 2013
A Doll’s House
Marriage: a bond between two loving people, who commit to each other through thick and thin, and for better or worse. This idea of love and happiness is a common and often desired wish for many people who seek to fulfill one of many life’s offerings. Although marriage is a sacred bond between to people, it is often abused and superficial, diminishing its purpose entirely. Marriage and love is a very centralized and prominent topic within Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. Isben peers beyond the “seemingly normal” motives of marriage, (love and happiness) and examines more deeply into the superficial relationships within the play; much like the ones we see in real life situations. The conversations and actions conducted by the play’s characters help support the notion of Ibsen’s point of “missing elements” and superficial motives within marriages. Isben begins his interpretation of marriage through the two main protagonist of the play, Torvald and Nora Helmer. From the first scene of the play we can already see that Torvald treats Nora in a very demeaning and condescending fashion, “Hasn’t Miss Sweet Tooth been breaking rules in town today?” (pp. 4). Although they may seem like a charming and normal couple it is apparent that they are far from it. We start to see peculiar elements when Torvald constantly talks to Nora in a “pet” like manner, continuously referring to her with pet names, and acting as if he owns her and expecting no intellectual conversation from her in return. Though he may speak to her sweetly he does so as a father would talk to his child, bringing up a most familiar relationship as if between Nora and her deceased Father. Torvald restricts Nora’s financial needs as well as her diet, treating her like a doll that is unable to make decisions for herself; he completely ignores her ability to make decisions as an individual. What makes this marriage seem more superficial and abnormal is the decision on Nora’s behalf to go along with it and play “house” with Torvald, accepting her role as a doll within his house. As a reader you can see the lack of actual love and see rather the need of Nora to have someone to fulfill her role as husband or provider; this also applies towards Torvald and his need to have a “trophy wife”. Furthermore, Ibsen brings light to another character in the play, Mrs. Linde, former lover to Krogstad. As a widower, Mrs. Linde, seeks the comfort of a man who can provide for her and two younger brothers”. Mrs. Linde is a very independent woman, as opposed to Nora Helmer; however, it is very apparent that they both seek to settle for a partner in life who is simply just to fill the role as husband, rather than marry for love. This can be seen as another dysfunctional image of marriage; primarily in Act II, when Mrs. Linde tries to rekindle her past relationship with Krogstad in order to achieve her fulfillment of finding a husband. Another point in Ibsen’s interpretation of marriage can be made in the conversations held between Nora and Dr. Rank in Act II. Rank and Nora share and intimate and personal conversation between one another, reviling many things about their characters. Rank tells Nora his true feelings, feelings that surpass a simple friendship and can be seen as inappropriate towards a married woman, that he “would gladly give his life for her sake” (pp.40). This clearly shows that he feels for Nora deeply. This “inappropriate” conversation continues further when Rank brings up the idea of how Nora seems to care for Torvald as any normal person would, not as a loving wife should. She replies, “Yes – you see there are some people one loves best, and others whom one would …rather have as companions” (pp.41). This statement clearly defines what her relationship with Torvald means to her, and admits that she does not marry for love but for the sake of having a “husband”. This later goes on to how Nora compares her relationship with Torvald as the one she held with her father, as we clearly saw how Torvald treated her like a child earlier on in Act I. If the audience has not picked up on how abnormal and fake the Helmer’s relationship is then this conversation between Nora and Dr. Rank has clearly defined the true nature of it. Ibsen’s interpretation of marriage is really brought to light during the final act of the play. Nora finally decides to tell Torvald of her illegal act of forgery, hoping to start fresh and rekindle her relationship with her husband, praying to reignite the spark between them. However, much to her dismay Torvald reacts poorly to her telling of the truth and instead explodes on her telling her that she has “ruined his reputation” and “destroyed all of his happiness”. At this point Torvald completely disregards any feelings of Nora’s and in a way dismisses their relationship. On the other hand, once Torvald realizes that this will not affect his reputation negatively he immediately switches back to “loving husband”, a very odd and immature response to the situation in general. If we thought that Torvald was superficial in the beginning on Act I we are clearly sure of it now. Ibsen clearly shows in this instance that love is only of importance to people when in their favor, that people are unwilling to work through strife and deal with the problems that come along with any normal relationship. A turning point in this scene is when Nora to realizes that something is missing in her relationship with Torvald, and is unhappy with the way things have been transpiring. Even though in the beginning she was able to give up true love for financial support and shallow praise she now no longer feels cared for and supported by Torvald. She decides to file for divorce from Torvald since she can no longer tolerate being his little doll. In essence, Ibsen pokes fun at the concept of marriage. He does so by showing how quickly Nora and Torvalds relationship went from sweet to destitute, or how devotions can be quickly turned on and off in superficial marriages. Ibsen looks under the façade of how marriages should be and surfaces the reality of how many marriages are superficial and used as a tool for reputation and financial stability rather than for love or passion. In contrast, Ibsen also highlights a spark of hope for the sake of marriage, by Nora finally leaving Torvald and getting a divorce. This signifies that there is hope yet for a marriage with true morals and that people can make an effort to make a change in their lives for the better. Overall, Ibsen interpretation of marriage is told brilliantly through the characters of A Doll’s House.
Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll's House. New York: Dover Publications, 1879. Print.