Strength In A Dolls House Essay, Research Paper
Strength in Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll House”
Women have played many roles in marriage throughout history but the primary one has been the role of the submissive, attentive, attractive wife. This role mainly composed of living for her husband and her children. Henrik Ibsen, in his play A Doll’s House examines the of the roles of women and men in marriage. “A Doll House” shows us the story of a woman regaining her strength and self-respect. The main character, Nora begins a difficult search for the self esteem and self worth she has never experienced before.
In the beginning of the play Ibsen outlines the typical marital relationship between Torvald and Nora. Torvald is the strong, dignified husband while Nora is “little lark twittering.” (1565) Torvald’s continual reference to Nora using bird names parallels Nora’s image of herself. In the first act, Torvald continually refers to Nora as his “little spendthrift,” his “little scatterbrain,” his “squirrel sulking”, and most
importantly his “song bird.”(1565) These images of weak birds characterize Nora as a weak person. The simple twittering, little birds we see every day are very susceptible to cold weather and to dying and so is Nora. The images of a “little spendthrift” and a “little scatterbrain” indicate stupidity and ignorance. Nora can’t think for herself because her thoughts are scattered and unorganized. She can’t assume responsibility for money because she will waste it.
In the character of Torvald we are led to believe that he is the loving and accommodating husband. He treats Nora like a child, and she, not knowing any better at this stage, acts accordingly. For example, as a child forbidden by its mother from eating candy before dinner, Nora hides her macaroons from Torvald. Acting like her parent, Torvald suspects her of hiding macaroons from him. He repeatedly asks her if she is sure she didn’t eat any macaroons. “Surely my sweet tooth hasn’t been running riot in town today, has she?” he asks (1567) Nora’s response to Torvald shows us her lack of self-esteem. Instead of sharing with him her love for macaroons she hides it. Instead of standing up for her rights as a human being to eat what she likes, she acts like a little bird afraid of her own shadow. In the beginning of the play we are introduced to Nora as the weak, stupid, dependent wife.
The second stage of her independence is introduced by the invitation to the Stenborgs’ costume party. Her invitation to the party with Torvald is extremely significance to her self-esteem. She is desperately trying to find a way to charm Torvald into keeping Krogsard on as an employee at the bank. Through the use of her feminine wiles she hopes to convince her husband that what she requests of him is only a minor request. At this point she is caged as a bird would be caged. She cannot fly away till she gets her independence. Her attendance at the party signifies the fact that she is attempting to break free. She will dance the Tarantella at the party with wild abandonment as this will prove, she realizes to be her last performance, her swan song.
In her attempt to break free, she views Mrs. Linde, her childhood friend, as a woman of the world who has experience in the matters of independence. Whenever Torvald is not around Nora, we can see Nora’s efforts to break free. Nora shows her strength in the fact that she saved her husband’s life. In revealing her secret to Mrs. Linde she attempts to gain independence. When Mrs. Linde comes to visit we see Nora ready to crack wide open with a confession. In explaining her lifes’ hardships, Mrs. Linde says, “You know so little of life’s burdens yourself.” (1570) Nora’s answer is of strength, “I-? I know so little.” (1571) You can hear the sarcasm in Nora’s words. Mrs. Linde continues on to say, “You’re just a child.” (1571) In response Nora answers, “You don’t have to act so superior.” (1571) This show of strength is typical of Nora as long as Torvald is not around to hear it. After being fully under the control of Torvald, Nora is desperate in her attempts to break free and she is starting to become her own person.
The third stage of her independence is obvious when Krogstad comes to visit her and reveals her terrible deed: the forgery. After she took matters in her own hands and forged her father’s signature, we are told it was to save her husband’s life. Krogstad decides to blackmail her many years later when his job becomes threatened. She turns on him with a tremendous show of strength when she says:
A daughter hasn’t the right to protect her dying father from anxiety and care? A wife hasn’t the right to save her husband’s life? I don’t know much about law, but I’m sure that somewhere in the books these things are allowed. And you don’t know anything about it-you who practice the law? You must be an awful lawyer, Mr. Krogstad. (1580)
Not only did Nora refer to Krogstad as a “awful lawyer,” but she also calls the law “a very poor law.” (1580) Her statements show that she has the potential of being a strong woman. Through her confession to Mrs. Linde and her strength of character against Krogstad, Nora prepares herself to engage in the biggest battle yet to come, the battle with Torvald.
It is not until Nora sees the truth of Torvald’s character that she finally manages to break free as a bird from his hand and his imprisonment. Her long expected “miracle” never took place for Torvald showed his true selfish character. He says to her, “But there’s no one who gives up honor for love.” (1611) In her answer “millions of women have done just that.” (1611) She finally comes to a much larger understanding of women’s problems.
In this statement, she realizes that she has had many accomplishments and that she is worthy of much more than what life has given her. It is at this point that Torvald stops referring to her using bird imagery. He has finally noticed that she has a strength of character that possibly exceeds his own. Instead of her relying on him, he becomes dependent on her, he states, “But to part! To part from you, No, Nora No,- I can’t imagine it? .” (1611) He can’t imagine his life without her and he can’t live without her. Nora, on the other hand, has set herself free. Instead of her using his “wide wings” to shelter her, she breaks free of their “snug and cozy home” and says “I’m freeing you from your responsiblities. Don’t feel yourself bound, anymore than I will.” (1611) In setting her husband free, Nora has set herself free to fly away, as far away as she can.
Looking back we can see how difficult Nora’s struggle to break free from her prison has been. In the beginning of the play, she is first weak and child-like. She then gains some strength to stand up to Mrs. Linde, even going as far as helping her with employment, and she learns to manage her problems with Krogstad. Nora, after realizing Torvald’s true character, breaks free of her cage and does what birds do best, she flies.