A Doll’s House: Theme of Emancipation of A WomanIn reading Ibsen’s A Doll’s House today, one may find it hard to imaginehow daring it seemed at the time it was written one hundred years ago.
Itstheme, the emancipation of a woman, makes it seem almost contemporary.In Act I, there are many clues that hint at the kind of marriage Noraand Torvald have. It seems that Nora is a doll controlled by Torvald. Sherelies on him for everything, from movements to thoughts, much like a puppet whois dependent on its puppet master for all of its actions. The most obviousexample of Torvald’s physical control over Nora is his reteaching her thetarantella. Nora pretends that she needs Torvald to teach her every move inorder to relearn the dance.
The reader knows this is an act, and it shows hersubmissiveness to Torvald. After he teaches her the dance, he proclaims “When Isaw you turn and sway in the tarantella–my blood was pounding till I couldn’tstand it” showing how he is more interested in Nora physically than emotionally.When Nora responds by saying “Go away, Torvald! Leave me alone. I don’t wantall this”, Torvald asks “Aren’t I your husband?”.
By saying this, he isimplying that one of Nora’s duties as his wife is to physically pleasure him athis command.Torvald also does not trust Nora with money, which exemplifiesTorvald’s treating Nora as a child. On the rare occasion when Torvald givesNora some money, he is concerned that she will waste it on candy and pastry; inmodern times, this would be comparable to Macauly Culkin being given money, thenbuying things that “would rot his mind and his body” in the movie Home Alone.Nora’s duties, in general, are restricted to caring for the children, doinghousework, and working on her needlepoint. A problem with her responsibilitiesis that her most important obligation is to please Torvald, making her rolesimilar to that of a slave.Many of Ibsen’s works are problem plays in which he leaves theconclusion up to the reader. The problem in A Doll’s House lies not only withTorvald, but with the entire Victorian society.
Females were confined in everyway imaginable. When Torvald does not immediately offer to help Nora afterKrogstad threatens to expose her, Nora realizes that there is a problem. Bywaiting until after he discovers that his social status will suffer no harm,Torvald reveals his true feelings which put appearance, both social and physical,ahead of the wife whom he says he loves. This revelation is what prompts Norato walk out on Torvald. When Torvald tries to reconcile with Nora, she explainsto him how she had been treated like a child all her life; her father hadtreated her much the same way Torvald does. Both male superiority figures notonly denied her the right to think and act the way she wished, but limited herhappiness. Nora describes her feelings as “always merry, never happy.
” WhenNora finally slams the door and leaves, she is not only slamming it on Torvald,but also on everything else that has happened in her past which curtailed hergrowth into a mature woman.In today’s society, many women are in a situation similar to Nora’s.Although many people have accepted women as being equal, there are still peoplein modern America who are doing their best to suppress the feminist revolution.People ranging from conservative radio-show hosts who complain about “flamingfemi-nazis,” to women who use their “feminine charm” to accomplish what theywant are what is holding the female gender back. Both of these mindsets areexpressed in A Doll’s House. Torvald is an example of today’s stereotypical man,who is only interested in his appearance and the amount of control he has over aperson, and does not care about the feelings of others.
Nora, on the other hand,is a typical example of the woman who plays to a man’s desires. She makesTorvald think he is much smarter and stronger than he actually is. However,when Nora slams the door, and Torvald is no longer exposed to her manipulativenature, he realizes what true love and equality are, and that they cannot beachieved with people like Nora and himself together.
If everyone in the modernworld were to view males and females as completely equal, and if neither men norwomen used the power that society gives them based on their sex, then, and onlythen, could true equality exist in our world.