Henrik Ibsen and His Doll’s House

Henrik Ibsen, known as the father of modern theatre, was born March 20, 1828, in Skien, Norway, a small lumbering town. Henrik was the fifth child out of six children and his parents’ names were Knud Isben and Marichen Altenburg. His father was a successful Merchant in a small community and his mother his mother played the piano, painted and went to the theaters. At the age of 8 Ibsen’s family was thrown into poverty, due to problems with his father’s business. Once Henrik turned 15 he dropped out of school and moved to Grimstad, where he landed a position as an apprentice for an apothecary. While being at the University he drafted his first play called “Catiline”, was based off the Latin text that he studied an exam for. His first play was harshly criticized, but at the time Ibsen was struggling to discover his voice. Later down the road “Love’s Comedy” and “The Pretenders” were his first prosperous plays while attending the University of Christiania. Ibsen had traveled to many different states, including Italy, France and back to Norway; but he finally chooses to settle in Germany, where his most famous play was written, “A Doll’s House.”

On January 1, 1830, the industrial revolution had a big influence on France, Britain had forbidden exports of machinery, skilled workers, and manufacturing techniques, which possibly had an effect on Ibsen’s fathers’ company. Another event during that time it was an abundance of the revolutionary crisis in France due to political struggles and growing population manifested tension. During the year 1856, the peace congress held in Paris restored Paris as the diplomatic Centre of Europe. At the time the play, “The Feast of Solhoug (1856)”, had just been published, it was his first publicly successful drama. On July 19, 1870, Napoleon empathically declared war against Prussia. During that time Ibsen was living abroad, mainly in Rome, Dresden, and Munich, returning to Norway only for short visits in 1871.

One of the key points in the play, “A Doll’s House”, is the setting. Henrik wanted to give the audience a picture of a society that showed the inequalities that take place against women every day and everywhere. He felt the setting should reflect a universal place that could be replicated anywhere in the world. The time period is the Victorian Era, which takes place from 1837, when Queen Victoria rises to the throne of the British Empire, until her death in 1901. The setting of A Doll’s House is a Victorian, middle-class household in a city in Norway, during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Throughout the play, the main characters Nora and Torvalds are mainly taken place in the kitchen, living room, their bedroom and the office. Henrik wanted to give the audience a picture of a society that showed the inequalities that take place against women every day and everywhere.

The two main characters in the play are Nora Helmer, which is the wife, and Torvalds Helmer, which is the husband. Throughout the play, both Nora and Torvald show a wide range of personality traits. The traits that stood out the most for Nora is her Strength, Childlike behavior and she values love over the law. In the first act of the play, Nora explains to her close friend Mrs. Linde, that she borrowed money from a longtime friend to make sure Torvalds health would get better. Torvalds has no clue that Nora did such an awful act until Mr. Krogstad comes into the scene. Krogstad is blackmailing Nora by telling her if she does not convince Torvalds to let Krogstad keep his job, he will take Nora to court due to the act of forging her father’s signature. In this quote it explains how Nora values love or the law, “It was impossible; papa was so ill. If I had asked him for his signature, I should have told him what the money was used for; and when he was so ill himself, I couldn’t tell him that my husband’s life was in danger—it was impossible.” (1.53) Towards the end of the play Torvalds ends up finding what Nora had done for him and he disowns her, and he is very appalled that she would do such a selfish act. Torvalds decides to take the kids away from her and wants to fake being happy in their relationship.

Once Torvalds called Nora disgusting names, she decided to stand up for herself for once she had the strength and this quote explains how she displayed it by saying, “Indeed you were perfectly right. I am not fit for the task. /there is another task I must complete first. I must try and educate myself you are not the man to help me in that. I must do that for myself and that is why I’m going to leave you.” (3.147) More explanation Nora finally realized that she was a doll in Torvalds house and how she never really had her own opinion or thoughts and now she is ready to learn about herself. Nora and Torvald are two very different people, some of Torvald character traits are that he is a belittler, shallow, and authoritative over Nora. At the beginning of the play Nora comes in from the store and Torvald begins to call her these playful names as if she was a kid. He then begins to tell Nora that she only belongs in the kitchen and if she cleans shell get money from him and that she doesn’t understand how to save money, but on the other end Nora was using the money to pay back the loan. Torvald demonstrates his belittling trait in the following quote, “You cannot deny it, my dear little Nora. It’s a sweet little spendthrift, but she uses up a deal of money. One would hardly believe how expensive such a little person is.” (1.10) Towards the end of the play Torvald shows his true colors and emotions, Nora expected Torvald to sacrifice his reputation for her, but instead, he was shallow and muttered the words, “From now on, forget happiness. Now it’s just about saving the remains, the wreckage and appearance. I shall not allow you to bring up the children, I dare not trust you.” (3.138)

The plot of the play is when Torvald finds out that his friend is about to pass away and finds the letter that Krogstad wrote to him about Nora’s legal actions. Once finally reading the letter Torvald began to yell at Nora and claim that her actions have ruined his life. This is the breaking point for Nora. The memorable event to me is as Torvald is calling Nora all these names and how everything is her fault Nora realizes that their marriage the life she is in does not make her truly happen. She is also thinking to herself while Torvalds is rambling that she spent so much time as a toy, always playing the part that Torvald and her dad wanted her to play. She began to tell Torvald that she wants to live this life no more and tells him she is leaving him, as soon as she said those words Torvald is practically begging for her to stay. I was astounded at the fact that he changed his tone from being shallow to begging for her to stay and I am also happy for Nora at the fact that she wants to learn about herself. What impacted the plot is when Nora expected Torvald to sacrifice his reputation for her as she did for him, but once Nora found out that Torvald was the not the guy she married she was in shambles and ready to leave him.

I recommend the play “A Doll’s House” because the play displays a women’s role and how they were underprivileged in the 18th century. The play expresses the typical family during the time and how women did not have a lot of roles in a household. I also like it because Nora’s character, at the beginning she was just this doll being toyed around and at the end, she realized her worth, and I finally understood why the play was named A Doll’s House. The critic Linda Martin opinion about the play was, “In this controversial literary works, strong women characters choose to leave the comfort of protective security to find the existence of their own.” (pp 1-4) Another critic Errol Durbach mentioned that “A doll’s house envisioned the emancipation of men and women from the capitalist system with the abolition of class rule serving as a prerequisite for the abolition of sex rule.”( pp 15-18) Lastly, Donna Bortolini mentioned that the play was obligatory.