The Controversial Theme of A Doll's House
In his play, A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen depicts a female protagonist, Nora Helmer, who dares to defy her husband and forsake her "duty" as a wife and mother to seek out her individuality. A Doll's House challenges the patriarchal view held by most people at the time that a woman's place was in the home. Many women could relate to Nora's situation. Like Nora, they felt trapped by their husbands and their fathers; however, they believed that the rules of society prevented them from stepping out of the shadows of men. Through this play, Ibsen stresses the importance of women's individuality. A Doll's House combines realistic characters, fascinating imagery, explicit stage directions, and an influential setting to develop a controversial theme.
The characters of this play help to support Ibsen's opinions. Nora's initial characteristics are that of a bubbly, child-like wife who is strictly dependent on her husband. This subordinate role from which Nora progresses emphasizes the need for change in society's view of women. For Nora, her inferior, doll-like nature is a facade for a deeper passion for individuality that begins to surface during the play and eventually fully emerges in the ending. An example of this deep yearning for independence is shown when Nora tells her friend, Kristina Linde about earning her own money by doing copying. Nora explains, "it was tremendous fun sitting [in her room] working and earning money. It was almost like being a man" (A Doll's House, 162). Mrs. Linde is an inspiration to Nora, because Kristina has experienced the independence that Nora longs for.
Even though Nora seeks to be independent, she uses her role of subordination to her advantage. By deceiving her husband, Torvald, into thinking that she can do nothing on her own, she ensures that he never suspects her of forging her father's name to borrow 800 cronen from Krogstad in order to save Torvald's life. When Krogstad threatens to expose the truth, Nora must use her craftiness to distract Torvald and sway him into letting Krogstad keep his job. Unfortunately, she is not able to change his mind, but she does succeed in diverting his suspicions of her motives. She praises him and lulls him into a false sense of security by telling him that "[n]o one has such good taste as [he has]" and then goes on to ask him if he could "take [her] in hand and decide what [she is] to go as" for the dance. She confesses to him that she "can't do anything without [him] to help [her]". These statements lead him to believe that he is the one to "rescue" her, when it is in fact Nora who is trying to rescue him from dishonour. Later on, when Krogstad puts a letter in Torvald's mail, explaining everything that Nora has done, Nora uses her charms once more. She pretends that she has forgotten the tarantella so that Torvald will spend all his time with her and think nothing of the mail that awaits him. Nora truly believes...