Breaking out of the “A Doll’s House”

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Updated: Mar 03, 2020
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A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen is a wonderful read that challenges the view on how roles were in the older days and how feminism became more known. The story talks about a woman named Nora Helmer who lives with her husband, Torvald Helmer. She fulfils her husband’s task and meets up with a couple of friends. She finds out that the man who helped her illegally obtained some money for a trip might soon be fired by her husband. Thus, she is getting blackmailed by the man, so he can keep his job while he keeps her secret buried. Torvald ends up finding out what she does, and he goes off on her which leads her to leave him and everything. This whole story shows the evolution of Nora from beginning to end. The way Nora ends up discovering her individuality is by realizing the environment she lives in, the obstacles she must overcome to be loved, and how her husband, Torvald ultimately perceives her.

A Doll’s House takes place in the Helmer’s household. Torvald being the man of the house works to provide for his wife and three kids. This makes Nora become dependent on her husband since she does not have to work. She falls into the category of the normalcy role of the typical housewife. This puts her in the submissive role. They have a maid, Helene who takes care of the household work. Nora spends her time playing with her kids like she is a child herself. She tends not to learn any life lessons because of the lack of responsibility she has with their kids. Nora lovingly does whatever Torvald tells her to do to please him. In some cases, he calls her pets names such as “”little squirrel”” and “”My pretty little pet.”” This behavior represents the title “”A Doll’s House”” and how she is manipulated like a doll by her husband. She is also influenced by people who make money. Dr. Rank who is a good friend of the Helmers comes to visit them knowingly he will pass on to the next life soon. Rank is a wealthy individual with no dependents and that his fortune will soon go to someone. Natalie Hamm Devaull suggests that “”It is probable that Nora is subconsciously aware of her impeding inheritance.”” (276) This describes that Nora knows how Dr. Rank feels about her and how she should be treated. Knowing that she will get an inheritance will not stop the obstacles she has to face in this story.

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By forging papers with her father signatures to get money for a trip, this caused her to be in a bad situation not known to her. Nora does this to help Torvald’s health improve while going on the trip to Italy. She later realizes the problem due to Krogstad, the man who helped her receive the money and is a subordinate position to Torvald. Knowing that he will soon get fired, he blackmails Nora to save his job by meeting his demands or he will tell her husband what she did behind his back. Nora becomes aware of the consequences if caught. She discovers that she is at risk of going to jail. Losing face or reputation is another problem if she faced if discovered by Torvald or authorities. The biggest obstacle Nora has is her limited education or life lessons. She was silver-spoon fed by Torvald and brainwashed to do what he says. This gives her the fantasy of how much she believes they love each other. In the article “”A Woman Appreciates Ibsen,”” Katherine M. Rogers explains:

“”Morris Freedman likewise blames Nora personally

For a weakness which resulted from her limited education, as he criticizes her inconsistency in moving from the conventional chivalric code she has been taught, under which she expected the noble male to sacrifice himself to save her, to the truth she discovers for herself, that the male is not superior, on which she bases her claim to equality.”” (96)

She believes that he will do anything for her like the time she illegally forged papers to have enough money for them to go to Italy. Torvald instead completely shocked Nora.

Instead of sticking by her side, Torvald is enraged when he finds out what Nora did. He feels like she disgraced his name and reputation if it gets public. He has no appreciation for the things she did for him.

“”What a horrible awakening! All these eight years””she who was my joy and pride””a hypocrite, a liar””worse, worse””a criminal! The unutterable ugliness of it all!””For shame! For shame! (Nora is silent and looks steadily at him. He stops in front of her.) I ought to have foreseen it. All your father’s want of principle””be silent!””all your father’s want of principle has come out in you. No religion, no morality, no sense of duty–. How I am punished for having winked at what he did! I did it for your sake, and this is how you repay me.”” (Ibsen 799; act 3)

The context of his speech shows the rage in his eyes and his feelings towards his little doll Nora. This opens her eyes to who he truly is and uncovers the discovery of her individuality. Although she comes to discover this, she is still somewhat of a child due to the way she was living in this household. In “”A Modern View of Ibsen’s Emancipated Women”” by Helen Popovich, she discusses how Nora breaks away from being a subordinate housewife to Torvald but will eventually come back to him since she was not able to grow up learning life lessons. She is still a child at heart and he know how to manipulate her. “”He wants her home and he knows the game he will have to play to coax the doll back into his house.”” (6)

In the end, Nora ultimately discovers her individuality through living in that environment, the obstacles she overcomes, and how Torvald perceives her. This allows her to realize what she is worth in the end. She is not just a doll that Torvald or her father visualized but an individual with emotions and opinions. She does not care if she needs to go back home to relearn what she did not get to in the Helmer’s household even if it means leaving Torvald and the kids. Joan Templeton in “”Ibsen’s Nora”” claims that Nora needed to be deceitful and selfish in order to evolve into a mature being who becomes self-aware of her identity. (896)

Work Cited

DeVaull, Natalie Hamm. Nora’s Final Inheritance in Henrik Ibsen’s A DOLL HOUSE Explicator. 2012, Vol. 70 Issue 4, p275-278.

Ibsen, Henrik. “”A Doll’s House.”” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. Eds.Jogn Schiilb and John Clifford. 7th ed.Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 752-805. Print

Popovich, Helen. “”SHELF OF DOLLS: A MODERN VIEW OF IBSEN’S EMANCIPATED WOMEN.”” CEA Critic, vol. 39, no. 3, 1977, pp. 4-8. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Rogers, Katharine M. “”A WOMAN APPRECIATES IBSEN.”” The Centennial Review, vol. 18, no. 1, 1974, pp. 91-108. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Rosenberg, Marvin, and Joan Templeton. “”Ibsen’s Nora.”” PMLA, vol. 104, no. 5, 1989, pp. 894-896. JSTOR, JSTOR,

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Breaking Out of the "A Doll's House". (2020, Mar 03). Retrieved from