One of the primary tenets of Marxism is the belief that human thought is a product of the individual’s social and economic conditions, their relationships with others are often undermined by those conditions (Letterbie 1259), and that the weak or less-fortunate are always exploited by the richer bourgeoisie. A common theme found in Henrik Ibsen’s play, “A Dolls House,” is the exploitation of the weak and the poor by the strong and the rich, and an obsession with material possession. The characters in “A Dolls House” are all affected by the lack or acquisition of money, and their entire lives and way of thinking are based upon it. Therefore, a Marxist theme pervades throughout much of the play and can be seen from each of the main character’s perspectives.
Nora’s way of thinking and her outlook on life are both completely dominated by her material wealth and financial conditions. For example, when the play begins Nora is just returning home from a shopping trip. She enters the apartment with an “armload of packages” (43) and is followed by a boy carrying a Christmas tree. Nora then tells Helene, one of their maids, to hide the tree so the kids won’t see it until it’s been decorated. When Torvald enters, she asks him for money so she can “hang the bills in gilt paper” as Christmas tree decorations (45). The tree symbolizes her obsession with money because she didn’t want anyone to see it until it had been decorated to show off their newfound wealth. Previously, she made the decorations by hand, spending an entire day on the project. Doing the same now would be “thinking poor” in her mind, so she spends excessive amounts of money on presents and decorates the tree with it because now they can afford to “let themselves go a bit” (44). Now that Nora belongs to a higher social class she practically throws money away. She tells the tree delivery boy to keep the change from the crown she gave him, paying him twice what he asks. Despite the fact that Torvald’s raise won’t come into effect for another three months, she insists that “we can borrow until then” (44) when previously she and Torvald saved every penny they could in order to get by, and they both worked odd jobs in order to supplement their income.
She becomes more selfish as well, claiming that if something were to happen to Torvald after they had borrowed money, “it just wouldn’t matter” (44) because the people they borrowed from are strangers. Now that they belong to a higher social class, her responsibility has flown out the door and she cares only for her own interests. She doesn’t care what would happen to the “strangers” she borrowed from, because she concentrates only on what she can extract from other people. Also, when her friend Kristine comes over, the first thing she mentions is her husband’s new job, claiming that she feels “so light and happy” (49) because they now “have stacks of money and not a care in the world” (49). When the wiser Kristine answers that it would be nice “to have enough for the necessities” (50) Nora insists that that is not enough-she repeats that she wants “stacks and stacks of money” (50). After she tells Kristine she borrowed the money for
the trip to Italy, and tells her about all the “hard work” she did in order to pay it off, she says her worries “don’t matter anymore because now I’m free!” (56). She equates freedom with the acquisition of wealth, saying that having money is the only way she can be “carefree and happy” (56). By the end of the play, however, she 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 dependant on him. She refers to leaving him as “closing out their accounts,” (108) and in doing so “she renounces not only her marital vows but also her financial dependence because she has discovered that personal and human freedom are not measured in economic terms,” (Letterbie 1260). Nora’s entire outlook on life changes...
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