(briefly) on A Doll’s House

ImageFred Arsenault and Gretchen Hall in Old Globe’s A Doll’s House

In  Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, we are introduced to a woman named Nora who is married and has three children with her newly promoted Banker husband. Her days are spent by spending her husband’s money on things that they both need, and on things that they don’t. Her husband, Torvald reminds her all the time about her frivolity with money. He gives her a series of childlike nicknames such as “my little skylark” or “my squirrel”. All in all it seems like a normal everyday family.

As the play progresses you learn that Nora is no saint. She has committed the crime of forgery on official bank documents so that she may be granted a loan that she later used to go on a trip to Italy. Her husband Torvald has no idea, and she would like to keep it this way. Krogstad, is the employee at the bank that officiated the loan knowing that Nora forged her father’s signature on her documents. Years later, Krogstad is getting fired from the very bank that Nora’s husband is a banker at, and he comes to her for help convincing her husband not to fire him. When Nora tells him that she cannot seem to convince her husband to keep him, Krogstad reveals that he has written a letter detailing all of Nora’s actions and that he plans to use it as blackmail not only to keep his job, but to attain a promotion.

Desperation on Nora’s behalf is what fuels the rest of the play’s action, and as it turns out, everything works out in Nora’s favor. How lucky. At the end of the play something very unexpected happened, and perhaps this is what gives the play its real “staying power”. Nora leaves. This play was written and originally performed in the year 1879. Its unexpected ending threw audiences into an uproar because it was unheard of that a woman would up and leave her family because she needed to find herself. There was blatant lack of catharsis in this play for any of the characters, and as an audience, it seems that people were not quite ready for this. Nowadays, people are more open to this idea. 

On a personal level, I did not enjoy this play. It reads to me like a soap opera. I thought that the story is rather unoriginal; blackmail is certainly not a new concept and neither is that of a secret admirer revealing his true feelings (which is something else that happens in the play). Of course, I was a little shocked, as many first-time readers are, when Nora abandons her family, but for me, this is the only thing that saves the play. It completely flips the script on the perception of Nora’s character. To be honest, I felt that tone of the play was very male chauvinistic UNTIL Nora leaves. That event offers a shock value even for today’s modern standards. Despite this play being 134 years old, the concept of a mother leaving her children is still toe-curlingly distasteful to most people. 





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