In the play A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen the author gives the characters conservative roles of men and women from the nineteenth century. The play has a strong plot that contains a series of conflicts that the protagonist of the play must undertake throughout her life, facing an internal struggle between what she believes is right and the way that she must act to please her husband. The protagonist faces difficult decisions she must make and the readers observe how she reacts to each challenge that comes her way. Nora the protagonist in the play will demonstrate the conservative feminine standards.
The main characters in the play are Nora Helmer and her husband Torvald Helmer. In the play Torvald displays his misogynistic views and Nora displays the role of the “Doll” which is passivity, beauty and the basically feminine nature. Nora knows down deep inside that her husband does not respect her. He has a lot of pet names for her “my little squirrel”, and “little lark”. Helmer: “Is that my little lark twittering out there?” (Ibsen 2), “When did my squirrel come home?” (Ibsen 2). Torvald treats Nora in an insulting way because she is a woman. He tends to call her a spendthrift whenever Nora asks for money. Helmer: “Has my little spendthrift been wasting money again?” (Ibsen 2). We also see that Torvald never call Nora by her name unless he gets serious. He will only talk to Nora about spending money, things of leisure as if she was a child, but never about anything important.
Nora does things according to what Torvald wants and everything is done by his standards. Torvald does not allow Nora to have much freedom nor does he leave any decision making to Nora. We see this when Torvald and Nora talk about what she will wear and do for the ball. Nora: “Torvald, couldn’t you take me in hand and decide what I shall go as, and what sort of dress I shall wear?” (Ibsen 33). Torvald treats Nora like a child and puts her down a lot. He hardly ever talks to her like and adult. Helmer: “Come, come, my little skylark must not droop her wings. What is this! Is my little squirrel out of temper?” (Ibsen 3). His comments suggest that Nora could never understand anything just because she is a woman. Torvald believes Nora is not intelligent or mature enough to have a conversation that has to deal with any type of serious matters.
Torvald continually says that Nora could not understand serious matters, because she is a woman. Nora: “I can’t hit upon anything that will do; everything I think of seems so silly and insignificant.” Helmer: “Does my little Nora acknowledge that at last?” (Ibsen 33). By Torvald belittling Nora that rules her quiet behavior, her submissive voice never to be heard as long as she is married to Torvald. Nora: “Splendid! But don’t you think it is nice of me, too, to do as you wish?” Helmer: “Nice?—because you do as your husband wisher? Well, well, you little rogue, I am sure you did not mean it in that way” (Ibsen 41). Torvald sees Nora as his pet that he trained to be obedient and to do tricks for him. Nora: “Your squirrel would run about and do all her tricks if you would be nice, and do what she wants” (Ibsen 42). Here we can clearly see that Torvald sees Nora the doll like a lifeless object with which he can play and enjoy.
In the play we see that a few years back Nora took out a loan when Torvald became ill and the doctor recommended that the whole family move south in order for Torvald to fully recover. Nora borrowed the money from the bank, without her husband permission because Torvald would not pay for the family to move. Nora kept this secret from Torvald for a long time, then he received a letter letting him know about the loan that Nora had borrowed. Nora expected consideration from Torvald because she only did it out of love for him. Instead we see Torvald only thinks about himself, his appearance and reputation. Torvald threatens and blames her for messing up his family. Helmer: “Now you have destroyed all my happiness. You have ruined all my future” (Ibsen 78).
Nora and Torvald viewed marriage as a forever commitment between two individuals to love one another but we see that their marriage will not have the fairytale happy ending. Torvald disrespect towards Nora becomes a major conflict as Nora progressively becomes more independent. Nora starts to discover herself, her own identity as a woman and sees that she has been a doll to her husband, like she was her father’s doll too. Nora: “But our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa’s doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I though it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald” (Ibsen 83). Nora now sees that women are more than what their husbands make of them.
Nora starts thinking of ways to change her priorities, an action to take and shifts her thoughts from suicide to deciding to leave Torvald and her kids. Nora expresses the desire to experience life outside of her husband’s shadow. Nora: “It is for that reason that I cannot remain with you any longer” (Ibsen 84). Nora was a victim of suppression but now she becomes more independent. Nora now realizes that she can escape from Torvald’s empire and have no regrets. Nora: “I am going away from here now, at once” (Ibsen 84). Nora feels that forsaking her marital vows and her financial dependency will give her personal and human freedom. Nora: “Listen, Torvald. I have heard that when a wife deserts her husband’s house, as I am doing now, he is legally freed from all obligations towards her. In any case, I set you free from all your obligations. You are not to feel yourself bound in the slightest way, any more that I shall. There must be perfect freedom on both sides. See here is your ring back. Give me mine” (Ibsen 88).
In conclusion A Doll’s House is a very realistic play. The play aims at improving society by ending the inequalities among women. We all have seen that inequality, discrimination and injustice obstruct individuals from fulfilling their abilities. These types of inequalities are still seen in present time. Every individual should be seen as a human being, no matter the role the individual plays in society, everyone should be free and be able to enjoy equal opportunities.