Doll House By Henrik Ibsen

Many of our choices and the things one does in a lifetime can be directly based
on what society perceives to be proper. The choices one makes based on
societys views, may sometimes have no logic to support them. These choices
are sometimes chosen because society would look down upon the person making the
wrong decision. The values and morals upheld by a society may directly
affect how one acts. This is held true for the character Nora in Henrik
Ibsens play A Doll House. Nora is the 19th century middle class wife of
Torvald Helmer. She is a woman who is devoted to her husband and family. Nora
minds her husband Torvald as a child would a father, and Torvald in return
treats her as a child, or as his doll. At the end of the play, Nora makes
an epiphany realizing the way she acts and how Torvald really feels towards her.

The causes for Noras behavior can be attributed to her upbringing,
societys views on what a womans role should be, and also Torvald, who also
helps Nora in her epiphany. The primary cause that affected Noras behavior as
an adult, was Noras upbringing. Noras father treated her as his
doll-child (1186, A Doll House; all page references refer to the
class text The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature 5th ed.) Her father
told Nora all of his opinions, and in time these opinions became Noras
opinions (1186). Torvald explains to Nora Exactly the way your father was
(1144). Nora has in essence become her father by not having a mind of her own.

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If her opinions differed, Nora would hide them because her father would not have
cared for them (1186). Nora was sheltered from the world. Her father shaped
Noras ideas and gave her his knowledge of how the world works The treatment
of Noras father may have been a result from how society viewed women in the
19th century, which is the second cause for Noras behavior. Women were viewed
as property of their husbands or fathers. This is a reason why the treatment of
Nora as a doll by her father was not an issue. Nora was property of her
father, and expected to mind him, as a proper young lady should. Women didnt
have any rights that were equal to a mans. According to Ibsen, in
practical life the woman is judged by mans law, as though she were not a
woman but a man (1191, Notes for A Doll House). Men thought that since
a woman does not think or act like a man, then they are a lower being. Ibsen
states, A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is
an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial
system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view (1191,
Notes for A Doll House). A man did not treat womens views as being of
any worth. A woman in the 19th century is obligated to her husband-to follow
my (a mans) wishes in everything and to strictly obey my orders (1194,
A Nineteenth-Century Husbands Letter to His Wife). Also as a woman, one
was subservient to men for financial reasons. A woman making her way on her on
was a hard road to take. There were very few jobs and society viewed these women
as delinquent and crazy. With this background of the gender roles in the 19th
century, one can use it to understand Nora and why she acts the way she does in
Ibsens A Doll House. It was unheard of for a woman not to mind her
husband or father. Nora is loyal to her husband and family the way any 19th
century wife would be. Noras husband Torvald is another cause for Noras
behavior. Nora has been dependent on men most of her life. The dependency was
taken from her father and put upon her husband Torvald once the two were
married. Noras relationship with Torvald can be characterized as a form of
enslavement (or) master-slave, male-female, (and) sexual
objectification (1196, A Marxist Approach to A Doll House). Nora
gets into a relationship where she is treated the same way her father treated
her, as a doll. She takes on the standard role of a 19th century woman.

Nora doesnt think for herself. She minds Torvald as if he was her father.

Torvald doesnt want her to eat any sweets, like macaroons. He expresses this
when he says to Nora, Surely my sweet tooth hasnt been running a riot in
town today, has she? (1145, A Doll House). Nora tells him, No
Torvald, I assure your, really- (1145, A Doll House). Nora tells her
husband that she hasnt been eating macaroons when she really has. She tries
to hide things from Torvald, just as she did from her father when their opinions
conflicted. This shows that Torvald has the strict upper hand. Nora doesnt
tell Torvald about the macaroons because she believes Torvald may know what is
best for her. Nora also keeps her thoughts to herself because she was never
taught to have her own opinions and she believes in the societys view that a
woman should mind her husband. Another example that causes Nora to obey her
husband is in the way he talks down to her. The talking down is expressed by the
names in which Torvald refers to Nora. These names consist of his
squirrel, lark, and spendthrift (1143-44). The names Torvald
calls Nora are meant to be loving, but actually emphasize Noras role as a
woman in the 19th century. Torvald also keeps Nora out of his money matters and
business. This causes Nora to be dependent on Torvald economically. The
treatment of Nora by Torvald causes her to mind Torvald, the way she always has.

Torvald is the man to accredit Noras epiphany to. The epiphany is caused by
the uproar he has towards the end of the play. Nora realizes what her life is
about. Torvald finds out that Nora had forged her fathers signature and the
results from it. He yells at Nora saying, Now youve wrecked all my
happiness ruined my whole future Ill be swept down miserably into the
depths on account of a featherbrained woman (1184). Torvald puts Nora down by
calling her, a hypocrite, a liar worse, worse a criminal! (1184).

Torvald goes on to criticize Nora by exclaiming, How infinitely disgusting it
all is! The shameI should have known. All of your fathers flimsy values
have come out in you. No religion, no morals, no sense of duty- Oh, how Im
punished for letting him off! I did it for your sake, and you repay me like
this (1184). After the letter arrives from Krogstad reporting that everything
was going to be fine, Torvald calms down. Torvald tells Nora, Im saved.

Nora Im saved (1184). Nora asks what about her. Torvald replies,
Were both saved, then goes on to tell Nora that he has forgiven her.

Nora realizes and tells Torvald You never loved me. Youve only though it
was fun to be in love with (1186). She realizes that she is Torvalds
play doll just as she was towards her father. Nora says to Torvald You
arranged everything to your own taste, and so I got the same taste as you or
pretended toNow when I look back, it seems as if Id lived here like a
beggar Ive lived by doing tricks for you. But thats the way you wanted
it. Its a great sin what you and Papa did to me. Youre to blame that
nothings become of me (1186). Nora realizes she has no opinions of her
own. She has just taken on the ones of the male figure in her life. Her epiphany
causes her to leave her husband and their children. Nora decides she needs to
finally educate herself (1187). She cannot take on the duties of a wife
and mother until she finds out who she is and what she really wants. I have
to stand completely alone, if Im ever going to discover myself and the world
out there (1187). I have to think over these things myself and try to
understand them (1187). Nora has finally made a decision for herself. This is
the beginning or the coming out party for Nora. She is now free of Torvalds
continuous doll-like treatment, and also she is free of her own dependency
on a male. Each of the events in Noras life were direct causes to her
behavior, and finally to her epiphany. One thing led to another. First her
father treated her as a doll, then Torvald treated her this way.

Societys view of a womans role in the 19th century caused this treatment
by Noras father and Torvald. Noras minding of Torvald and her father is
caused by her treatment. This epiphany Nora has is the best thing that could
have happened to her. Everything that happened in her life was a stepping stone
or a direct cause to her epiphany. She may have not have realized how she really
behaved if Torvald never got upset with her. In a way he did her a favor by
treating her the way he did. Now Nora can live her life and find out who she
really is.


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