A Dolls House: A Push To Freedom

A Doll’s House: A Push to Freedom
Sometime after the publication of “A Doll’s House”, Henrik Ibsen spoke
at a meeting of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights. He explained to
the group, “I must decline the honor of being said to have worked for the
Women’s Rights movement. I am not even very sure what Women’s Rights are. To
me it has been a question of human rights” ( ). “A Doll’s House” is often
interpreted by readers, teachers, and critics alike as an attack on chauvinistic
behavior and a cry for the recognition of women’s rights ( ). Instead its theme
is identical to several of his plays written around the same time period: the
characters willingly exist in a situation of untruth or inadequate truth which
conceals conflict and contradiction ( ). In “A Doll’s House”, Nora’s
independent nature is in contradiction the tyrannical authority of Torvald.

This conflict is concealed by the way they both hide their true selves from
society, each other, and ultimately themselves. Just like Nora and Torvald,
every character in this play is trapped in a situation of unturth. In “Ghosts”,
the play Ibsen wrote directly after “A Doll’s House”, the same conflict is the
basis of the play. Because Mrs. Alving concedes to her minister’s ethical
bombardment about her responsibilities in marriage, she is forced to conceal the
truth about her late husband’s behavior ( ). Like “A Doll’s House”, “Ghosts”
can be misinterpreted as simply an attack on the religious values of Ibsen’s
society. While this is certainly an important aspect of the play, it is not,
however, Ibsen’s main point. “A Doll’s House” set a precedent for “Ghosts” and
the plays Ibsen would write in following years. It established a method he
would use to convey his views about individuality and the pursuit of social
freedom. The characters of “A Doll’s House” display Henrik Ibsen’s belief that
although people have a natural longing for freedom, they often do not act upon
this desire until a person or event forces them to do so.

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Readers can be quick to point out that Nora’s change was gradual and
marked by several incidents. A more critical look reveals these gradual changes
are actually not changes at all, but small revelations for the reader to see
Nora’s true independent nature. These incidents also allow the reader to see
this nature has been tucked far under a facade of a happy and simple wife. In
the first act, she admits to Christine that she will “dance and dress up and
play the fool” to keep Torvald happy ( ). This was Ibsen’s way of telling the
reader Nora had a hidden personality that was more serious and controlling. He
wants the reader to realize that Nora was not the fool she allows herself to be
seen as. Later in the same act, she exclaims to Dr. Rank and Christine she has
had “the most extraordinary longing to say: ‘Bloody Hell!'” ( ). This longing
is undoubtedly symbolic of her longing to be out of the control of Torvald and
society. Despite her desire for freedom, Nora has, until the close of the story,
accepted the comfort and ease, as well as the restrictions, of Torvald’s home
instead of facing the rigors that accompany independence. Ibsen wanted the
reader to grasp one thing in the first act: Nora was willing to exchange her
freedom for the easy life of the doll house.

Ibsen shows that it takes a dramatic event to cause a person to
reevaluate to what extent he can sacrifice his true human nature. For Nora,
this event comes in the form of her realization that Torvald values his own
social status above love ( ). It is important to understand Nora does not leave
Torvald because of the condescending attitude he has towards her. That was, in
her eyes, a small price to pay for the comfort and stability of his home. In
Bernard Shaw’s essay on “A Doll’s House”, he expresses that the climax of the
play occurs when “the woman’s eyes are opened; and instantly her doll’s dress is
thrown off and her husband is left staring at her”( ). To the reader “it is
clear that Helmer is brought to his senses” when his household begins to fall
apart ( ). It is important that Shaw’s grammar is not overlooked. The
statements “the woman’s eyes are opened…” and “Helmer is brought…” both
indicate that the subject of the statement is


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