The power of classic literature and dramaturgy is in their ability to withstand the influence of time and remain relevant for society even after years since creation. This assumption might be applied to Henrik Ibsen’s play titled “The Doll’s House.” It was written at the end of the 19th century but continues to raise passionate discussions concerning the morality of the decisions made by the main character, Nora Helmer. The sources of the justification of her actions could be found in the rules and laws of that time’s society, as well as in the understanding of the role of a woman in it. At the end of the play, Nora experiences an epiphany that shows the real state of affairs in her marriage. Nora’s decision to leave her family for the sake of her self-fulfillment is just and moral due to her inability to comply with the established rules of a wife’s diminished worth before her husband. In this essay, the crucial issues raised in the pay will be discussed, and the quotes from the play will be analyzed to validate the claim.
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At the beginning of the play, the audience is presented with the realities of life in the Helmers’ family and the relationships between the characters. Nora appears as a cheerful and obedient wife who gently and lovingly performs small household chores and abides by her husband’s rules. They seem happy, having three children and Torvald’s stable working position. However, it appears early in the play that some years before, Nora had borrowed a big sum of money from Torvald’s employee, Krogstad, to be able to pay for her husband’s treatment and save him. She forged her ill father’s signature to get the money and now was threatened by Krogstad who was trying to keep his work at any cost.
Also, the first two acts show how the society, in which the characters live, is arranged. A woman is commonly expected to do the housework, make her husband happy, and children are taken care of, but nothing more. Women have no legal power and cannot make any important decisions, even if they concern about life-or-death issues. However, Nora’s morality is different, and it does not allow her to find an explanation for question why it is legally possible to be punished for good intentions. She cannot understand why “a daughter is not allowed to spare her dying father, a wife is not allowed to save her husband’s life” (“A Doll’s House 1973 Anthony Hopkins, Based on the Ibsen Play” 00:24:52-00:25:00). From the very beginning, it is evident that there is a contradiction between the world and a woman who lives in it.
Using the element of contrasting the inner world of Nora’s personality with the harsh forces of the outer world, Ibsen shows the conflict that gives the beginning to the drama. Indeed, on the inside, Nora is a woman with a generous heart capable of love and devotion at any cost. In the moment of despair and fear for her husband’s life, she did what she assumed was the right thing to do: she forged her father’s signature to be able to borrow money to cure Torvald. On the outside, she is a doll that only plays but does not live a real life. Moreover, in the eyes of her husband, she is not expected to be able to do anything more than that.
Similarly, the outside and the inside of the Helmers’ family life are contrasted to show the difference between the beautiful image and the complicated truth of relationships behind it. In an attempt to get rid of the pretentiousness of her life in this “doll’s house” where she has always been a doll, a “squirrel,” or a “lark” but not a human being, she is “taking off the costume” of a doll (“A Doll’s House 1973 Anthony Hopkins, Based on the Ibsen Play” 00:03:10-00:03:21; 1:16:38-1:16:42). This action symbolizes her epiphany, the understanding that she spent eight years of her life with a stranger who does not understand her and who is incapable of sacrificing his honor for love.
Torvalds words in the final act prove his complete abidance to the requirements of society. Nora expected her husband to react protectively after he received the threatening letter from Krogstad. Instead, Torvald only cared for his reputation, blaming his wife for everything. In response to Nora’s expression of her failed expectation of a miracle, Torvald utters the words that justify the dominating opinion of society. He says: “I put up with any sufferings, any hardship for your sake, but no man would sacrifice his honor even for love” (“A Doll’s House 1973 Anthony Hopkins, Based on the Ibsen Play” 1:28:33-1:28:43). Such a system of beliefs is contrary to the ones Nora has always cherished and believed Torvald had. That is why she had no other choice than leave the kind of life she always pretended to enjoy and find the truth about being a real human being.
In conclusion, Nora’s decision is viewed by the generations of readers and spectators as very controversial. It is disputable whether Nora should have sacrificed her willingness to seek for her inner self and stay with the family, though remain unhappy, or chase her happiness despite abandoning her children and husband. The ending of the play shows Nora’s revelation of the incompatibility of her own beliefs with the ones dominating in both the society and her family. Her duties are more than being a mother and a wife, she has a duty before herself, and that is what a person should prioritize to be happy.
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“A Doll’s House 1973 Anthony Hopkins, Based on the Ibsen Play.” YouTube, uploaded by Minnie Paramitha. 2016, Web.