Nora Helmer Exposed:
Her Wrong Decision to Leave
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen was first performed in 1879 when European society strictly enforced male supremacy over women. The play consists of a middle class couple, Torvald and Nora Helmer, who seem to have the perfect marriage, three children, and a pending respectable income with the husband’s recent promotion to bank manager. Torvald treats Nora like a doll, manicuring and manipulating her looks and actions. Although his controlling demeanor is concealed by innocent nicknames and monetary allowances, the affects of his domination over his wife are eventually exposed. At the end of the play, Nora leaves in a haze of anguish after her husband fails to defend her when she is accused of legal fraud in a loan she had taken to save Torvald’s life. Some people say that Nora was right to leave and flee the control of her demeaning husband to seek her individuality, but many argue the contrary when considering what she left behind, what she could have demanded and changed at home, and what she would face as an independent woman defending herself in a 19th century, male biased society. Although some may assertively argue that Nora was right to leave her home, others suggest the she was not right to leave considering the abandonment of her children, the responsibility she could have demanded from her husband, and the prejudice against independent women in her society. One of the major items favoring the stance that Nora Helmer was not right in leaving her home is the fact that she was not just leaving her husband, but her three young children also. When she announces her plans to leave, Torvald tells her she is neglecting her duties as a woman, which he says are to her husband and children (Ibsen 386). Although it can be agreed upon that her duty to her domineering husband at this point was inconsequential, her obligation to her children remained imperative. As their mother, she biologically shared a stronger attachment to them than the weak, nuptial bond she shared with Torvald. The pivotal difference lies in the fact that what Torvald demanded of her came from his possessiveness, but what the children demanded of her came from their dependence. Their need for their mother could have kept Nora from leaving except for the fact that Torvald had convinced her that children raised in an environment with a deceptive mother could inherit the same lifestyle of lying and trouble (Ibsen 354). However, throughout the play, the only harmful parental influences to occur repeatedly are those provided by the father figures. Some examples that critic Paul Rosefeldt provides of these corrupt fathers are Nora’s father, who has a history of legal misconduct, Nils Krogstad who struggles to raise his children after his corruption is exposed, Dr. Rank’s father who passes down syphilis to his son as a byproduct of infidelity, and Torvald who will have nothing to do with his children (1-2). Rosefeldt also describes Torvald as hypocritical saying, “When Nora’s crime is revealed, he gives in to Krogstad’s demands, making him even more hypocritical than Krogstad. He too becomes a father of lies and disguise, polluting his own children,” (2). Although Torvald’s hypocrisy gives Nora ample enough reason to leave, she is still not right to leave considering the abandonment of her children under the care of a faithless and detached father.
Even though the abandonment of her children may not justify Nora for leaving, others might retort saying she was right to leave so that she could lose her child-likeness and mature. However, some believe that she could have matured and even developed a sense of responsibility and maturity at home just as well as she could have on her own. She could have done this by demanding more respect and a share of responsibilities in managing her household from her husband. Already, it is obvious that Nora is extremely capable of doing this. Not only did she single-handedly...
Cited: Bebel, August. Women and Socialism. New York: Socialist Literature Company, 1879, EBook.
Ibsen, Henrik. “A Doll’s House”. Literature and Ourselves: A Thematic Introduction for Readers and Writers. 6th ed. Ed. Gloria Mason Henderson, Anna Dunlap Higgins, Bill Day, and Sandra Stevenson Waller. New York: ABLongman, 2009. Print.
Mørkhagen, Pernille Lønne. “The Position of Women in Norway.” explorethenorth.com. Pernille Lønne Mørkhagen, n.d. Web. 8 March 2011.
Rosefeldt, Paul. “Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.” The Explicator 61.2 (Winter 2003): 84. 1 March 2011<http://lionreference.chadwyck.com/searchFulltext.do?id=R0167033&div…0&queryid=../session/1299005945_29527&area=abell&forward=critref_ft>
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