We learn that Krogstad and Kristine know each other and had previously been in love. They decide to resume their relationship and Krogstad considers trying to recall the email as he . In this heat, god, you must be exhausted. Kristine: A little . when Torvald worked too hard in the first year of their marriage and got sick How does Mrs. Linde first claim to have known Krogstad? .. he says she's forsaking her sacred duties to her husband and children; then he says what would Jesus. Ibsen's plays, there is often a relationship, the psychodynamics o f which are portrayed wit h I f Torvald ha d behave d heroicall y o n th e receip t o f Krogstad' s letter, Nor a and loving. Lik e Mrs. Linde, an d mos t wome n i n he r culture, Nor a .. "God! What an awakening!" (ac t 3). The play has been building toward.
This is illustrated in how Torvald provides for Nora and ensures that she has all she needs. As we learn in the first Act, Torvald has been promoted into a high-ranking position at the bank. However, even before this advancement it is presumed that he has held a reputable form of employment lawyer in order to maintain his status within society and the patriarchy.
Interestingly, this kind of economic surety matches the security of his character and social standing. Maintaining a prestigious persona is central to Torvald. Nils Krogstad is another main male character within A Doll House. Krogstad does not fit the mold of a Victorian man. Like Kristine, Krogstad is a widower.
However, unlike Kristine, being a widower presents a disadvantage due to his having young children. Furthermore, Krogstad is further destabilized by rumormongering that is bound to his very name. By having his reputation tarnished and compromised by society, Krogstad is left in a perpetual state of powerlessness and insecurity. In addition to exhibiting traits of weakness and insecurity, Krogstad is portrayed as a man capable of emotion. This emotional manifestation, coupled with Dr.
Such revelations are a prime example that traits like strength and weakness, stability and instability are innate in all human beings. In addition to Krogstad, there is the third male role played by Dr. Although he is a well-to-do, reputable gentleman, Dr. Rank does not fit the mold of a Victorian man entirely. Rank lacks strength due to illness and the knowledge that he will soon die. Privately, he reveals to Nora that the disease he is afflicted with is an inherited one.
Moreover, as previously mentioned, Dr. Rank is a man full of emotion. Such compassionate disclosures were unusual for men within this time period. His character seemingly signifies the marriage Nora could have, if both partners treated each other as equal, intelligent beings. As the play progresses into its final scene, and as Nora and Torvald are established in their stereotypical gender-roles, Ibsen shocks the audience with a reversal of these time-honored roles.
He does this with a deliberate purpose: Torvald has come to understand that he is not as in control of his own life as he originally believed, especially once he discovers that Krogstad has the power to destroy him and his precious reputation.
Furthermore, he is no longer in command of Nora since she has walked out on him and the children. Torvald is emotional, exposed, and utterly shattered. Strictly speaking, Torvald is human. Contrastingly, coming to the astounding awareness that her prescribed gender role was a hindrance to her individual happiness and contentment, Nora basically rebels against her position. Following the dance, and after hearing of Dr.
Her loss of identity on account of playing a role to meet the unrealistic expectations of others is more of a tragedy than leaving her children in the capable hands of the nursemaid. By choosing to leave, Nora is choosing a life of freedom; a life where she can truly be herself and celebrate her intelligence and womanhood instead of continuing in such an insulting and limiting marriage. A marriage where here intelligence is mocked regularly and her subservience is expected, ensuring she never grows as a person due to never being treated as an equal, able partner in the marriage.
Such a declaration seemingly reveals that Nora believes her most central, most significant, responsibilities and duties are not those bound by gender, but bound by humanity.
Her whole life up to this point has been dominated by men, first her father and then Torvald, thus Nora is facing the most extreme unknown of her existence. After Nora tells Torvald he never really loved her, but the idea of her, and after Torvald objects, Nora states: He used to call me his doll-child, and he played with me the way I played with my dolls.
I guess a little of both, first one, then the other. However, Nora was not only more capable than Torvald, she was more than a match for him intellectually. According to Bachelorandmaster n. Nora, like most women of our contemporary society, has all the inherent talents for developing into a successful member of the society, as much as her husband or any man. In fact, her critical mind, sense of justice, readiness to change, absence of hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness in relation to what is called tradition, and such other positive qualities would help her to make more progress and contribute to the development of her personality, her family and her society.
Because strength is a human characteristic, not one attached to gender, Nora has always harnessed it and calls upon it in the final act. In conclusion, because Nora and Torvald represent the gender stereotypes of their time during the majority of the play, when Ibsen reverses the already established roles the audience is stunned into awareness.
This awareness reveals that inner and outer strength and feebleness, steadfastness and instability, or sensibility and whimsicality are human attributes, not gender specific characteristics.
Nevertheless, discrimination based on gender is still prevalent today in many modern societies. Through the downfall of one family over the course of three days, Ibsen works to communicate a vital truth: But most importantly, both men and women can be all of the above. Masculine and feminine gender stereotypes need not define individuals within a society. We define ourselves, or at least we should.
There is no special badge you get by exhibiting strength over vulnerability, and there is no dishonor fixed to insecurity, whimsicality, or helplessness. Each and every personality trait that we, both men and women, harness is a key component in maintaining our humanity.
The segregation of any one trait to one gender or the other would weaken us all, especially within our marriages and relationships. This kind of division causes unfair treatment, a loss of personal freedom, and a huge lack of respect.
Approaches to fiction, poetry, and drama 2nd ed. McGraw Hill Johnston, I. How old is Dr. Modern Drama, 41 4 Theatre Journal, 56 3 He may be reaping the rewards this society has to offer, but the price is extremely high.
At the same time, it also makes him correct in a good deal of what he says. Torvald is a man who understands how to function in society, and he is well aware of what happens to anyone who breaks the rules. We may find the fact that he believes in the rules and has no trouble appealing to them indicates a serious defect in his character and it doesbut that does not cancel out the fact that when he talks of how society will respond to Nora's forgery, he is right.
We should not simply write off Torvald's feelings as an overreaction to what will happen if his wife's crime becomes well known. The truly complex question in relation to Torvald concerns the nature of his feelings for Nora. We can see clearly enough that an important component in these feelings is the social satisfaction he derives from having a beautiful young wife all to himself, someone he can parade around in front of other men as his trophy, arousing their jealously when he takes her away from the party to gratify the sexual stimulation he has gained by her public dance.
All this is clear enough. The important question, however, is whether there is any more to his feelings than that. Is she merely a trophy wife, a toy doll in his doll's house? We may like to imagine that excessively conventional social men cannot possibly be anything other than wimps in bed, but if experience is any guide that is surely an unjustified generalization.
And there is no doubt that Torvald feels a strong sexual attraction for Nora something which has induced a few directors to include the marriage bed in the scenery. Why should this matter? Well, it does to this extent: If, however, there is a sense that the Helmers are sexually passionate with each other and derive great mutual satisfaction from their sexual natures within their marriage, the dynamics of Nora's transformation acquire a significantly different texture.
Whatever is forcing her to leave, sexual oppression is not a part of it. In fact, she may well be turning her back on her sexuality in her quest for independence. My sense is that Ibsen goes out of his way to bring out Torvald's sexual nature in his feelings for Nora and gives every indication that those feelings are reciprocated.
For all her apparent childishness, Nora is a sexual creature who radiates and uses sexual power over Torvald in the dancing and over Dr. Rank in that strange business with the silk stockings. It may well be that the apparent childishness is itself a sexual ploy, part of the erotic richness in the relationship.
There is even a sense that Torvald recognizes what she is doing in this way and welcomes it as part of the sexual roles they play as does Nora. I realize this line of thinking gets us into an infinite regression, but I make the point to stress that how one reads Torvald's sexuality in relation to Nora's something clearly in the play will be crucial in assessing her later accusations against him. Obviously, there is more to be said about this relationship. Suffice it to say here that Torvald's sexuality does suggest that within that entirely conventional man a somewhat more complex figure lurks and that his love for Nora, however much we may disapprove of various moments in their lives together, has a strongly passionate core.
This quality, I think, is essential to a full appreciation of the play especially of Torvald's conduct at the end and should not be neutralized by any attempt to see in Torvald a sexless, unintelligent bore, like, for example, Tesman in Hedda Gablerso that we can add sexual oppression more easily to the list of charges against that patriarchal society victimizing poor Nora.
Nora The central mystery and challenge of A Doll's House are obviously the character of Nora, our century's most famous stage heroine. And no matter what one says about her, there will be counter-arguments, rival interpretations, as there are with all great dramatic characters who are always, in a sense, underdetermined. What I mean by that phrase is that at the heart of great characters is a mystery, an ambiguity, something that finally eludes rational interpretation.
We do what we can to make reasonable sense of their motives, but we can never be entirely successful and remain true to the character as presented to us, because, as one critic puts it in relation to Shakespearethe greatest dramatic characters have the "freedom of incongruity" Bayley 47and hence to power to evade the neat compartments we want to place them in. Part of my objection to what I have called above the common interpretation is that it denies this mystery.
It overdetermines Nora, seeing in her a character whose actions are fully and entirely comprehensible in the light of a modern ideology, making her, in effect, typical rather than extraordinary, unique. For that reason, I don't have any complete rational explanation for Nora. After all, in a sense I am contending that Nora is a great dramatic character because she eludes final definition, any neat compartmentalization.
We should treat her as we do, say, Shakespeare's Cleopatra or Falstaff, someone eternally fascinating about whom we can make some useful observations, but not with any ambition finally to define her fully and completely. What these and other things I shall not be mentioning all add up to is the challenge facing us in our seminar discussions.
Gender Roles in A Doll’s House – The empathetic heart
An obvious place to start is the title of the play, A Doll's House. This invites us to apply a metaphor to the play, to see what is going on in the Helmer household as somehow analogous to a child's game featuring an artificial life of dolls manipulated by the doll master or mistress.
The title invites us at once to wonder about the issue of power: Just who is in control here? The quick and easy answer to this, of course, is that Torvald is in charge, society's darling and the male head of the household. But the opening scenes surely call this interpretation into question. For we see, in action, Nora controlling Torvald expertly.
He may adopt a conventionally controlling tone, what with the rules about money and macaroons, but Nora is the one who is getting her own way, eating macaroons and spending money and getting more as her wishes prompt the first thing we see her do is give the porter an over-generous tip. There may even be a sense that Torvald knows this: And the staging of the play strongly suggest that the living room in which the action takes place is Nora's realm.
Much here will depend upon the stage setting, of course, but throughout the play Torvald seems much keener to move off into his study than to linger in that room.
Some viewers and readers object to what they feel are the demeaning animal pet names Torvald uses sky-lark, squirrel, singing birdalthough why these should be any worse than many modern equivalents honey, baby, cutie pie, and so on I'm not sure.
There is certainly no sense that Nora finds these labels unacceptable--at times although not here she uses them herself to get her way with Torvald. But, one might be tempted to remark, all this is surely very demeaning. Yes, Nora may appear happy enough and getting her way, but she's playing a silly role, acting the child-wife when she is, in fact, a mature married woman and mother in her late twenties.
Isn't the game going on here oppressive to her? Isn't there something a little perverse about the way she acts with her husband? Yes, of course, she is playing a role, as is Torvald. There is a game going on, however we choose to judge it. The question one needs to consider is this: Who is in charge of the script?
Who is the doll master here? There is, I would urge, no simple answer to this question. The opening scene, before the interruption with the arrival of Mrs. Linde, puts pressure on us to recognize this complexity, especially given that Nora appears so happy, confident, and effective in her role the direction that she is singing or humming to herself is significant in this respect.
Role Playing and Control Having raised the issue of roles or game playing, let me offer the suggestion that this concept is one key to approaching the play, and particularly Nora's role. Let me further make the observation that one crucial factor in the roles Nora plays is that she needs to be in control, to take the lead role, as it were, using other people either as supporting actors or audience and that she writes her own script.
This notion which I will seek to explore in more detail soon helps me to deal with a question which frequently arises here: How can one woman make so many unexpected transitions? How is it possible for the child-wife to play the adult female tease with Dr.
Cliffsnotes: a dolls house-the play
Rankthe capable determined businesswoman in her secret dealings with the debtthe frantically desperate woman thinking of suicide, and, above all, the coldly independent mature woman at the conclusion of the play? Well, one common feature these manifestations of Nora's character all have is that they enable her to control others, to assert herself without really attending to, listening carefully to, learning from, or acting on what other people say.
Consider for a moment why Nora would not have told Torvald long ago about the debt. The reason she gives is interesting: However, she is looking forward to using that event in the future, when she can no longer rely upon her looks. How exactly this would help restore his affections may not be clear, but there is certainly a sense that Nora hopes it will make her more important to him. The fact that Nora thinks of her relationship with Torvald in such terms is interesting: Parenthetically, it's worth asking where the notion for all this dressing up, dancing, recitation, and so on, this performing in front of Torvald, comes from.
We could, of course, write it off as a manifestation of Torvald's patriarchal oppressiveness something Nora learned to do at her father's kneebut that, it strikes me, is too facile. He obviously enjoys it, and so does Nora, who shows no sign of dissatisfaction with it.
If it is the case that Torvald loves Nora and Nora knows it and that seems clear enough at the startthen one can I think assume that they are equally responsible for creating and maintaining this way of enriching their lives together: Nora will act out her various roles, and Torvald will respond. She will keep herself in the centre of the marital spotlight. This characteristic tendency of Nora helps us understand, too, why she shows no particular interest in Torvald's work or in social issues outside her own sphere, why she is so insistent that if society's rules indicate that something she has done is wrong, then society itself must be at fault, why she, now in her late twenties, has learned nothing at all and has no interest in learning anything about other people or society in general.
These things are irrelevant to Nora, not because she is denied an opportunity to think about them her secret repayment of the debt puts her in continuing touch with a world outside her homebut because they don't interest her, they provide no opportunity for her to perform, no space in which she can appeal to a sympathetic audience, no world over which she can exert any control.
On the contrary, to learn about such things she would have to stop performing and start listening to others, absorbing what they say, adjusting her understanding of herself in the light of new insights into larger questions, that is, surrender control.
This Nora is unable to do. Hence, she dismisses such concerns. The issue of Nora's need to be in the spotlight helps us to deal with another question: Why does Nora tell Kristine her deepest secret, after such a short conversation? She hardly knows the woman. The conversation leading up to Nora's revelation offers us a significant clue: Nora's appearance and surroundings would seem to define her as something of a winner in the game of life, in comparison with Kristine, and Nora begins their talk by, in effect, showing off to Kristine, inviting her guest's admiration for her and the life she has.
But Kristine speaks slightingly of her, reminding Nora of her childishness and spendthrift ways, in effect, challenging Nora "What a child you are, Nora" ; Kristine refuses to applaud, treating the notion that Nora might be able to help her as ridiculous: What, after all, has Nora ever accomplished?
That information also enables Nora to seize control of the conversation, to make herself the heroine of this small encounter, rather than listening sympathetically to what Kristine has to say. Having done that, she can pointedly refuse Kristine a bed for the night, a polite but brutal indication of Nora's indifference to Kristine's situation. Why does Kristine insist that Krogstad's letter be delivered. He, after all, offers to take it back, thus averting any disclosure of the forgery.
Kristine dissuades him, and Torvald gets the incriminating document. Why does Kristine do this? She is much more intelligently aware than Nora is of the consequences of Torvald's receiving the news of his wife's forgery. She does not fully explain her reasons, but I cannot help feeling that she is here returning to that earlier conversation. Nora thinks she is so wonderful. All right, let's see what she does now when her entire world blows up in her face, just as mine did.
Telling Kristine is hardly prudent. Nor is it necessary to bolster Nora's confidence about her achievements Nora is very self-assured within herself. But bringing out the story is essential if Kristine is to see Nora as an important person, if she is going to control their moment together by becoming the centre of attention.
The story serves Nora's need for self-dramatization as a means for controlling her surroundings. The same issue arises in her relationship with Dr.KROGSTAD
Rank, a long-term friendship based upon roles: Nora performs for him in conversation and he listens. His confession of love on p. Why should it do that? His confession calls attention to his feelings, to his desire to act on her behalf, to take charge. In effect, he is changing the rules of the game they have been playing together. Nora has no interest in or understanding of such a transformed relationship; besides, she is in charge of the game.
Gender Roles in A Doll’s House
She's happy enough with their roles together as she defines them. She accuses Rank of having ruined everything, another small but puzzling insight into this complex heroine's character. This notion of Nora's desire or need for control may help to explain the curious relationship she has with her children. They, of course, cannot be dealt with in the same way as adults; they are impervious to what Nora can do best, perform. Children require that their needs be attended to, that people listen and invite them to perform.
They impose their own demands. Hence, Nora seems to show little interest in them. They cannot give her what she wants they are, in some respects, too like her for her to deal with. She explicitly says how much she would like to be a child again. And the strength of her relationship with Torvald becomes easier to understand if we see this element of Nora's character. For Torvald brings no personal demands, no complex personal identity to his experience, no desire to perform.
In that sense, he is a perfect complement to Nora's character, and we can understand why they are so happy together. Yes, he is full of sententious moralizing about social issues, but we know those are irrelevant to Nora. She lets him act the authority on such questions and provide the space where they can live their lives. Her interest is in controlling that space and part of that control, of course, is giving Torvald the sense that he is in control.
She only begins to criticize him when he will not give her what she wants she may be right here, when she accuses Torvald of being petty for rejecting Krogstad, but it's interesting that she hasn't had this insight into Torvald until this moment: Now, I don't mean to criticize or belittle Nora over this matter of control.
For it's quite clear that her wish to be in charge at the centre of things has saved this marriage and is largely responsible for the pleasure she and Torvald derive from it. If Nora were not that sort of person, if she were less of an egotist and more acutely sensitive to the society and other people around her, she would never have gone ahead with the loan, and Torvald would have died.
She was able to undertake that and to save Torvald's life only because she has such a strong emotional commitment to herself, to her ways of doing things, over any and all objections.
Something needed to be done, and she did it society be damned. Moreover, the hard disciplined work over many years necessary to repay the loan is a tribute to Nora's determination and skill in carrying out her own project, all the while sustaining her own marriage in quite another role.
This quality lies at the heart of Nora's heroic character. Her confidence in herself, in her abilities to control the situation, to solve the problem, has led to her success and has confirmed, in her eyes, that she is right.
She flouted society's laws, worked hard, and is now about to reap the success of that action by handing over the final payment. It has not been easy, and there are times when a certain strain shows through as in that mention of the word "Damn"but there's no sense that Nora feels that she has been compelled to act in this way, that she has not freely chosen to be the person she is.
Most of the rest of the play is taken up with Nora's attempt to cope with this unexpected intrusion into her agenda. Her immediate responses invite us to ponder an obvious question: Why doesn't Nora simply tell Torvald? Why does she go to such frantic lengths to conceal the truth from him? My sense is that Nora's panic has less to do with the secret coming out than with her growing sense that she is losing control of the situation. She is now having to answer to circumstances dictated by others rather than staying firmly in the centre of the stage answering to her own demands.
She has no understanding of how to do this. So her mind resorts to what has worked for her in the past, taking on herself sole responsibility for somehow dealing with an unraveling situation. The various methods she uses seeking to cajole Torvald, thoughts of suicide, the tarantella, attempting to rob the letter box indicate her increasing desperation at having to deal with events which she cannot control.
She is bringing to bear what has worked for her in the past, but what she has to deal with here resists her attempts. Other people and the rules of the society in which they live are too fatally complex and inexorable for her efforts. When nothing seems to work she takes refuge in a self-generated fiction, that somehow Torvald will transform himself into the romantic hero of her dreams and the issue will be resolved.
This, of course, is the most transparent illusion, given what we have learned about that society and Torvald's relationship to and understanding of it. I make no attempt here to account for all the complexities of this fascinating scene, but once again I'd like to offer some observations to fuel further discussion.
Torvald's behaviour once he reads Krogstad's letter totally demolishes the illusion Nora has taken refuge in, and the lectures he delivers to Nora at the start of the scene remind us unmistakably of what a total social prig he is, determined to salvage what he can by deception and very angry at Nora for what she has done.
We are right to find what he says very offensive, especially since he makes no sympathetic attempt to talk to her, to explore her motivation, to share the crisis together as two individuals at a critical point in their lives together.
If, for example, Torvald's angry abuse leads him to hit Nora, the impact of his tirade will be very different indeed from what it would be if we sense a genuine pain and panic under his insults, if it deflates him rather than energizing him to violence against her] At the same time, we need to recognize that much of what Torvald says is right.
If this gets out, he will be ruined. We know enough about his society to understand that the slightest accusation of criminal conduct will destroy them both and that, we know, is so much more than just losing a job.
And we have seen that for Torvald his social role is who he is, his entire identity. He has no conception of himself outside that role. So, in effect, Nora has, in his eyes, destroyed him. We may deplore the shallowness of his character, but we should not dismiss the intensity of his feelings or the accuracy of his perception of how society will react.
Everything he believes in is in danger of being taken away. And that's why, once the danger has passed, he can instantly become himself again: So when he utters and keeps repeating that line which so often earns a laugh in the modern theatre "I forgive you everything" he is making in his eyes a sincere concession. Since society won't know, things can remain the same, and he is prepared to interpret her actions as love for him combined with inexperience in the ways of the world, a situation he is prepared to assist her to overcome.
All this is clear enough although we have to be careful here, I think, to listen carefully to what Torvald is saying and recognize his feelings--something not easy to do in these transformed times. The real challenge in this scene is Nora's conduct. Why does she reject Torvald so utterly? And how are we supposed to respond to her indictment of their former life together?
Prima facie, there are two ways we might initially approach Nora's conduct. We might see it as the awakening into a more mature understanding of herself, a sudden insight into the inherently unsatisfactory nature of her previous life, fuelled by an intense desire to get rid of the oppressive need to, as Nora puts it, do "tricks for you, Torvald.
Such a view commits us to a sudden transformation into a "new" woman, something many critics have found implausible see Marker and Marker, Chapter 3. Such an interpretation can easily become a celebration of Nora's newly found independence, an endorsement of her actions as demonstrating a valuable and necessary integrity in the face of an unacceptably conforming and compromising life.
She wants her life to acquire significant value, and she has come to the realization that that can only occur outside the family, on her own.