June 1, 2012
Literary Research Paper
Obsession with Wealth and Power
The exploitation of the weak and the poor by the strong and rich, as well as an obsession with material possessions is a common theme found in Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House”. Karl Marx states that “the ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant relationships grasped as ideas” (Marx). These ideas are realized throughout “A Doll’s House”. The main characters in are all affected by the lack or acquisition of money, and their entire lives and ways of thinking are based upon it. The belief that human thought is a “product of the individual’s social and economic condition is one of the primary tenets of Marxism” (Holcombe 1259) and “that the weak or less fortunate are always exploited by the richer bourgeoisie” (1259). With this in mind, much of the play is flooded with this Marxist theme and can be seen from each of the main character’s perspectives.
Marxism has to do with the unequal division of wealth and power in society, where the subordinates of society are kept powerless and dependent upon the higher classes. “A Doll’s House” portrays the stubborn class pride of saving face and preserving one’s reputation. Nora, Krogstad, Christine and Anne-Marie, are depicted as the lower class or oppressed, while Torvald the banker, is a beacon of capitalistic society and assumes the role of the oppressor. It also shows a social order in which the male holds the reigns of the family and has complete superiority over the female. Nora is financially dependent on Torvald and her behavior throughout the play is her way of gaining attention from him as well as pumping his ego.
Material wealth and financial conditions completely dominate Nora’s way of thinking and her outlook on life. The play opens with Nora returning from a shopping trip with an “a number of parcels” (Ibsen 1281), followed by a boy carrying a Christmas tree, to which she give a large tip, “…keep the change” (1281). She instructs the maid to hide the tree so that the kids will not see it until it’s been decorated, then asks Torvald for money to” …wrap in beautiful gilt paper and hang it on the Christmas Tree” (1283). The tree symbolizes her obsession with money because she didn’t want anyone to see it without proper decorations to display her new found wealth. She spends excessive amounts money on presents and wants to decorate the tree with it because they can afford to “let themselves go a bit” (1284).
Nora practically throws money away now that she belongs to a higher social class despite the fact that Torvald’s raise doesn’t come into effect for another three months. She insists they can “…borrow until then” (1283), when previously she and Torvald saved every penny they could get in order to get by, and they both worked odd jobs to supplement their income. This new found social class also causes Nora to become more selfish claiming that if something were to happen to Torvald after they had borrowed money, “it just wouldn’t matter” (1283) because the people they borrowed from are strangers. She cares about only 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.
When Nora’s long lost friend Christine comes over, the first thing she mentions is her husband’s new job, claiming that she feels “so light and happy” (1285) because now they have “stacks and stacks of money” (1286). When the wiser Christine answers that it would be nice to have enough for necessities, Nora insists that is not enough. After confessing to Christine that she borrowed money for the trip to Italy, and tells her about all the hard work she did to pay it off, she says her worries “…don’t matter anymore because now I’m free!” (1291). Nora equates freedom with the acquisition of wealth, saying...
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