Henrik Ibsen’s Play ‘A Doll’s House”

Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘A Doll’s House” introduces us to Nora Helmer and shows us how her idea of life changes when her long kept secret is revealed. Nora’s husband’s new position as the Manager of the town Bank, has her convinced she will be living a stress and worry-free life. However, Nora’s wonderful life is completely changed when her secret is revealed.

‘A Doll’s House is a landmark in drama, but it is confined in its range of social setting to the middle class. For Ibsen, this class denoted a community limited not only in its means of livelihood but also in its outlook. It is preoccupied with work and money, leading to a reduction of values from a moral to a material plane.’ (D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke)

The play begins around Christmas time and Nora is ecstatic about the arrival of her new life. Nora’s ideal life starts to change when an old friend, Mrs. Linde, visits the Helmer household. Mrs. Linde is looking for a job and has come to find help through Nora’s husband. Torvald is happy to offer Mrs. Linde a job, but Nora is unaware that she has just taken a step closer to revealing her secret.

As the story goes on, Nora realizes that if her husband gives Mrs. Linde a new job it will leave Mr. Krogstad, the man keeping her secret, unemployed. This causes Nora to understand there are cons for helping Mrs. Linde. “By matters of business- such as business as you and I have had together-do you think I don’t understand that? Very Well. Do as you please. But let me tell you this- If I lose my position a second time, you shall lose yours with me” (688). Mr. Krogstad uses Nora’s secret to try and keep his job. He tells Nora that if he loses his job he will make sure Nora’s family knows her secret. Realizing this will mess up her wonderful ideal life, she begs Torvald to find another job for Mr. Krogstad. However, Torvald decides not to find another job for him. Since Mr. Krogstad is jobless now he writes a letter to Torvald revealing Nora’s secret.

Torvald is outraged as he reads the letter Mr. Krogstad gave him. “It is so incredible that I can’t take it in. But we must come to some understanding. Take off that shawl. Take it off, I tell you. I must try and appease him some way or another. The matter must be hushed at any cost. And as for you and me, it must appear as if everything between us were just as before- but naturally only in my eyes of the world. You will remain in my and that is a matter of course. But I shall not allow you to bring up the children; I dare not trust them to you. To think that I should be obliged to say so to one whom I have loved so dearly, and whom I still-. No, that is all over. From this moment happiness is not the question; all that concerns us is to save the remains, the fragments, and the appearance- “(715). It was in this moment Nora realized that her dream of having a wonderful life was about to drastically change. Although, shortly after this outrage, Torvald receives another letter that read ‘Nora’s secret is safe; it was too late for Nora’. After the outrage, Nora realized things about her life and tries to explain them to Torvald. “I mean that I was simply transferred from papa’s hands into yours. You arranged everything according to your own taste, and so I got into the same tastes as you- or else I pretended to, I am not quite sure which- I think sometimes the one and sometimes the other. When I look back on it, it seems to me as if I have existed merely to perform ticks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against. It is your fault I have made nothing of my life” (717). After the situation, Nora started to realize that she had been living in someone else’s shadow. “Indeed, you were perfectly right. I am not fit for the task. There is another task I must undertake take 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 am going to leave you now” (719). Nora is no longer certain of who she is and decides to end the life she has been living. ‘Of course, she has been made to believe that she was happy, that she was an ideal wife, and that her husband loves her, and she was living with the belief that an ideal husband like hers would, if the necessity arose, sacrifice his life to save her reputation. It is these illusions that are shattered at the end.’ (D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke)

At the beginning of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” we were introduced to Nora, a character who could not wait to start her new ideal life. But when an old friend came to visit, Nora ended up making a bad decision which caused her secret to be revealed to her family. After Nora’s secret was revealed, she realized the life she thought she wanted was not the life she truly wanted. All this goes to show that sometimes things do not always go the way we wish they would.