A Doll’s House: A Push to Freedom Essay

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Sometime after the publication of “A Doll’s House”, Henrik Ibsen spokeat a meeting of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights. He explained tothe group, “I must decline the honor of being said to have worked for theWomen’s Rights movement. I am not even very sure what Women’s Rights are. Tome it has been a question of human rights” ( ). “A Doll’s House” is ofteninterpreted by readers, teachers, and critics alike as an attack on chauvinisticbehavior and a cry for the recognition of women’s rights ( ).
Instead its themeis identical to several of his plays written around the same time period: thecharacters willingly exist in a situation of untruth or inadequate truth whichconceals conflict and contradiction ( ). In “A Doll’s House”, Nora’sindependent nature is in contradiction the tyrannical authority of Torvald. This conflict is concealed by the way they both hide their true selves fromsociety, each other, and ultimately themselves. Just like Nora and Torvald,every character in this play is trapped in a situation of unturth. In “Ghosts”,the play Ibsen wrote directly after “A Doll’s House”, the same conflict is thebasis of the play.
Because Mrs. Alving concedes to her minister’s ethicalbombardment about her responsibilities in marriage, she is forced to conceal thetruth about her late husband’s behavior ( ). Like “A Doll’s House”, “Ghosts”can be misinterpreted as simply an attack on the religious values of Ibsen’ssociety. While this is certainly an important aspect of the play, it is not,however, Ibsen’s main point.
“A Doll’s House” set a precedent for “Ghosts” andthe plays Ibsen would write in following years. It established a method hewould use to convey his views about individuality and the pursuit of socialfreedom. The characters of “A Doll’s House” display Henrik Ibsen’s belief thatalthough people have a natural longing for freedom, they often do not act uponthis desire until a person or event forces them to do so. Readers can be quick to point out that Nora’s change was gradual andmarked by several incidents. A more critical look reveals these gradual changesare actually not changes at all, but small revelations for the reader to seeNora’s true independent nature.
These incidents also allow the reader to seethis nature has been tucked far under a facade of a happy and simple wife. Inthe first act, she admits to Christine that she will “dance and dress up andplay the fool” to keep Torvald happy ( ). This was Ibsen’s way of telling thereader Nora had a hidden personality that was more serious and controlling. Hewants the reader to realize that Nora was not the fool she allows herself to beseen as. Later in the same act, she exclaims to Dr. Rank and Christine she hashad “the most extraordinary longing to say: ‘Bloody Hell!'” ( ).
This longingis undoubtedly symbolic of her longing to be out of the control of Torvald andsociety. Despite her desire for freedom, Nora has, until the close of the story,accepted the comfort and ease, as well as the restrictions, of Torvald’s homeinstead of facing the rigors that accompany independence. Ibsen wanted thereader to grasp one thing in the first act: Nora was willing to exchange herfreedom for the easy life of the doll house. Ibsen shows that it takes a dramatic event to cause a person toreevaluate to what extent he can sacrifice his true human nature.
For Nora,this event comes in the form of her realization that Torvald values his ownsocial status above love ( ). It is important to understand Nora does not leaveTorvald because of the condescending attitude he has towards her. That was, inher eyes, a small price to pay for the comfort and stability of his home. InBernard Shaw’s essay on “A Doll’s House”, he expresses that the climax of theplay occurs when “the woman’s eyes are opened; and instantly her doll’s dress isthrown off and her husband is left staring at her”( ). To the reader “it isclear that Helmer is brought to his senses” when his household begins to fallapart ( ). It is important that Shaw’s grammar is not overlooked.
Thestatements “the woman’s eyes are opened. . . ” and “Helmer is brought.
. . ” bothindicate that the subject of the statement is not responsible for the action. Rather, some other force pushes them both into their new realization. Shaw’sclever analysis directly adheres to Ibsen’s view of a person’s reluctantapproach to freedom.
Although Nora is the central character of the play, she is not the onlyperson to cross the turbulent thresh hold of freedom and bondage. ChristineLinde leaves the symbolic harshness of winter and enters the warmth of Nora’splace of captivity early in the first act ( ). Christine gives the reader aninitial impression of Nora’s opposite. She is a pale, worn woman who iscompletely independent. Her conversation with Nora reveals that Christine wasleft poor and alone after her husband, for whom she did not care, passed away.
Christine had accepted marriage with her husband because she reasoned herpresent situation left her no other option. She felt she had to take care ofher two brothers and bedridden mother. If she had not married this wealthy man,she would have had her freedom, but it would have been a difficult struggle. Instead, she surrendered her freedom for an easier life. Eight years later, thedeath of her husband gave her enough of a jolt to set her back in control of herown life.
Torvald is certainly not the hero of “A Doll’s House”, but he is not thevillain either ( ). He is just as trapped in the same facade of a happy houseas Nora. He feigns security and unrelenting support for his wife, but this maskis quickly dropped when he finds himself in danger. The discovery of Krogsdad’sletter leads Torvald to believe his life and social position are on the brink ofdestruction.
Torvald spouts out ridiculous and stupid remarks as Nora’s facedraws tighter and colder with each statement. Nora is freed. When Torvaldfinishes babbling apologies and forgiveness after the second letter from Krogdadarrives, Nora takes control of the conversation and control of her life. Moments before Nora slams the door on her former life, Torvald’s eyes are opened( ).
He pleads with Nora, “I have the strength to change”, but it is alreadytoo late ( ). It takes the departure of his wife before Torvald can awaken tohis shallow existence. The shake-up in Torvald’s life ushers him across thediscordant threshold of freedom and bondage. “A Doll’s House” is the most socially influential of Ibsen’s plays ( ).
It shocked the public into taking a much more serious look into Women’s Rights. “Ghosts” and “An Enemy of the People” caused equally large shock waves butrepercussions were not nearly as phenomenal. The three of these plays,regardless of the extent their social impact, have each earned the title ofClassic. Each play is the result of the one written before it. In a letter toSophie Aldersparre, Ibsen explained, “After Nora Mrs.
Alving had to come” ( ). The same idea two years letter spawned “An Enemy of the People”. The threeplays share the common idea of characters existing in situations of falsehooduntil something causes them to reevaluate their existence. Instead of exploringtheir personal freedom every moment of their lives, Ibsen’s characters had theireyes cast down on the path of least resistance.
This is simply a more strictversion of Ibsen’s primary theme in all his works: the importance of theindividual and the search for self-realization. Works CitedBrunsdale, Mitzi. “Herik Ibsen. ” Critical Survey of Drama. Ed.
Frank N. Magill. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press 1986. pg982. Clurman, Harold. Ibsen.
Macmillan, 1977, pg223. Rpt. in Twentieth-CenturyLiterary Criticism. Ed.
Sharon K. Hall. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale, 1982.
pg154. Shaw, Bernard. “A Doll’s House Again. ” The Saturday Review, London, Vol. 83,No.
2168, May 15, 1897: 539-541. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Sharon K. Hall.
Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale, 1982. pg.
143. Category: English

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