English Comp. II
A Marriage Like No Other
In the realist drama “A Doll House” by Henrick Ibsen. Moreover, the dramatic tension on the play is heightened through Ibsen’s submission of the play and the sensational introduction at the beginning of each act. Ibsen provides dramatic conventions to expose the flawed value system of the family, regarding the institutions of marriage, prejudice gender roles and personal integrity.
Ibsen mocks the stifling moral climate of the family in conditioning an individual’s identity in the pursuit for self-determinism. The imposition of controlling gender roles are brought to life through the doll house metaphor, revealing the entrapment of the family. Metaphorically, the doll house is a moral safeguard for values of social determinism, which Ibsen exposes the limitations of external forces in conditioning Nora’s existence as a doll. Nora’s objectification is enforced through Torvald’s nicknames, “my songbird”, “lark” and “squirrel”. While Torvalds use of “my” implies Torvald’s ownership of Nora in their superficial marriage. At the same time Torvald’s strict adherence to male-controlled principles, limits his capacity to empathize with Nora’s cry for freedom. Essentially, Henrick successfully adopts the doll house metaphor to attack the mores of patriarchy, which forces Nora to compromise her identity and freedom to rigid social ideologies.
The superficial foundations of marriage disfigure one’s sense of personal identity, justifying Nora’s cry for liberation from patriarchal ideologies which disempower women of her time. As it is stated in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 7:8 it says, “better is the end afterward of a matter than its beginning”. The diction “little” connotes Nora’s submission to Torvald’s internalization of dominant ideologies, mirroring the disempowerment of women in the family. Moreover, the symbolic Tarantella dress reflects Torvald’s idealized perception of Nora as his “pretty little thing”, repeating Nora’s objectification. The power imbalance within the Helmer marriage justifies Nora’s deceit, obvious in the dramatic irony “I wouldn’t do anything you’d disapprove of”. This notion is contrasted with Nora’s statement “I saved Torvald’s life by signing my father’s name and got the money”. Nora’s deception undermines Torvald’s strict obedience to the imposed social ideologies, which Kristine echoes these patriarchal sentiments, “a wife cannot borrow money without her husband’s permission”. The conflict of gender limitations drives the tragic force of the play in Act 1, ending at a climactic moment to heighten the tension in Act 2. Ibsen successfully generates a greater degree of empathy for Nora, as he mirrors the disempowerment of the social and economic limitations of women in the family.
Ibsen’s rich exploration of the family, inevitably results in Nora’s separation from her doll metaphor. Kristine and Krogstad function as compounds for Nora’s transformation, through illuminating the truth of the Helmer marriage, “no more lies, tricks… they must understand each other”. According to Amy Grant, “Every good relationship, especially marriage, is based on respect. If it’s not based on respect, nothing that appears to be good will last very long”. Nora and Torvalds marriage is nothing like this, he controls everything that goes on/ While Krogstad initiates the tragic force of the play through his symbolic letter in Act 2, Ibsen establishes the combination of the authentic relationship of Krogstad and Kristine to the superficiality of the Helmer marriage, compelling Nora to excel the limitations of the family. Moreover, the parallel of Nora and Krogstad disrupts the values of social determinism, as Krogstad elevates himself through the social hierarchy despite being deemed “morally sick”.
Essentially, an unexpected union of the two derives from a compromised understanding, as both characters are criminalized for their acts of personal integrity. Thereby, Ibsen invites the audience to evaluate their personal values, emphasizing the importance of self-determinism overriding social conformity. Ibsen exposes the flawed value system of the bourgeoisie and forewarns of the detriments of an individual’s life being overridden by social morality. The dramatic irony of the Tarantella dance “anyone’d think your life depended on this dance” and Nora’s statement “31 hours to live” foreshadows the impending death of Nora’s doll metaphor. This is further accentuated through Finney’s statement of Nora’s cry for emancipation from the Tarantella dance, evident in “she returns from her frenzied state, back to the role of a wife and mother, only as a springboard from which to emancipate herself.” Moreover, Nora evolves from a doll identity in Act 1, to an awakened woman in Act 3. Her transformation demolishes the artificial foundations of the doll house, revealing the harsh winter landscape, portraying reality.
Ibsen’s well-made play is evident in the final scene of the play, where Nora “slams the door” and leaves the audience with a climactic ending. Nora’s first appearance connotes her disempowerment in the family lifestyle, which is then contrasted to the final scene, where she puts on the cloak and turns on the lights. The illumination of the truth compels Nora to remove herself from the deception of the door house, abandoning the union of her shallow marriage and burden of motherhood. Nora is very unrecognizable by the end of Act 3, as Ibsen courageously abandons the doll metaphor, thus giving her a voice and the courage to stand up for herself. Nora and Torvalds marriage was toxic, they are better off alone.