A Doll's House

A Doll's House - Henrik Ibsen ----------SPOILER ALERT----------

This was my first time reading anything by Henrik Ibsen. I did enjoy myself quite a bit, I felt the ending was a bit too abrupt but the build-up was excellent, I felt like I was getting to know all the main players. On the other hand, Ibsen probably thought if he was Nora he'd say fuck it and hightail it outta there at that exact point so I'm leaving that last star blank for uncertainty.

So, A Doll's House is a 3 act play featuring Nora, Torvald her husband, Mrs Linde her friend from her childhood, Dr Rank Torvald's best friend and Krogstad the much maligned lawyer/moneylender. The nurse, housekeeper and children make an appearance from time to time but they dont play much of a part.

It seemed to me that the main theme explored throughout the play was the role women played in 19th century Norway and by extension the world, really. And this role was daughter, wife and mother. There was no room for anything to interfere with that 'sacred duty' much less any sort of individual identity. A broader rcurring theme is of people, regardless of gender, being trapped in lives they do not want.

As the play begins we're introduced to Nora and my first impression was that of a dense, coy, money-obsessed yapping puppy. But as things move on and Torvald's controlling, patronising behaviour becomes evident it seems like Nora has developed a socially acceptable way of getting what she needs out of her husband. She plays the helpless idiot which fits exactly into Torvald's fantasy of the ideal woman.

As I got to know Nora more, I saw through the act, I felt sympathy for her. She had to humiliate herself every day to ask for things she should rightly have. Imagine being called 'my little twittering lark' or 'my little featherhead' on a daily basis. Of being told you're a spendthrift but in an oh so teasing way complete with wagging finger. At one point I felt like this was a prelude to a punch in the face. You know, the type of bully that starts out in that sing-song voice before he breaks your nose and kicks you while you're down. That doesn't happen, thankfully.

But back to the play, Nora has a secret which she confides to the superior and oh so irritating Mrs Linde. As it turns out, Nora has been hiding her intelligence behind all that fluff. When she's told by doctors that her husband is seriously ill and needs to go away for some rest (don't we all), she comes up with the money herself. How ? She went to Mr Krogstad and since she borrowed that $250 she's had to come up with ways of making her payments by taking whatever jobs she can do and scrounging away housekeeping money, all without her husband finding out. She says at one point to Mrs Linde, "It was a tremendous pleasure to sit there working and earning money. It was like being a man."

But circumstances come to bear when her husband finds out and all this has the potential to completely ruin them socially. Instead of thanking her, he goes on about how he's going to take the kids away from her and belittles her, the usual. At this point, Nora's 'wonderful action' of saving her husband and her hope of him showing his gratitude or appreciation disappears and she's had enough. She doesn't take a butcher knife to him or anything. Instead she says, "Our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls.I thought it great fun when you played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our marriage has been, Torvald" and "It was then it dawned upon me that for eight years I had been living here with a strange man, and had borne him three children-Oh! I cant bear to think of it! I could tear myself into little bits! "

Nora explains how she's a human being first, not just a wife and mother and that she needs to leave 'to try and educate herself.' I understand her point of view. If someone's just an empty shell of a nobody, with no opinions or thoughts or identity of their own then how can they impart anything of worth to their children. That is one of the messages I took away from the play. There are other themes I didn't talk about and multiple quotes I would have loved to put in this review but it would be just too much. I hope I did the play just a bit of justice.