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A Doll's House: Henrik Ibsen

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10/7/14

History – 116

A Doll’s House, is a play written by Henrik Ibsen that tells the story of Nora Helmer as she tries to navigate through a difficult situation without upsetting her husband, Torvald Helmer, in the process. Throughout the play it is clear to see that the 19th century views towards women were different and many examples can be found in the play; examples like the way Nora's husband talks to her as if she were a small child or the way Nora was raised that instilled upon her a sense of duty towards the strong male figures in her life. Being a product of her environment, Nora herself seems to adopt some of the era’s flawed views and it is made evident by her rarely speaking up and doing what makes others happy at the cost of her own prosperity.

As shown from the opening dialog, you can see that Torvald Helmer holds a small amount of respect for Nora as a wife and seems to treat her as you would a small child or pet. From the nicknames like “little squirrel”, “little lark” and “spendthrift”, Helmer does not seem to address her by name until he has finally had enough of hearing about spending money on Christmas (A1). In fact in that situation he seems to treat Nora more like a misbehaved child then a wife, or so the play suggests when it narrates his actions “Goes up to her and takes her playfully by the ear” (A1). Helmer seems to be more of a controlling partner then a loving husband and continues to play the part throughout the play until the final act. The couple had planned a dance and it was after the guests were leaving that Helmer showed a glimpse of true affection towards Nora, describing her as his beautiful “young bride” and that Nora’s dancing made him feel as if his “blood was on fire”. It is here that Nora seems to be held in a higher light by her husband than any other time.

It is also evident that the timeframe of the play also plays a major part in tone directed towards the female characters. Based in the 19th century women held very few privileges and even less in the way of rights. While speaking to her friend Mrs. Linde, Nora tells how her husband became ill when they first married and they were too poor to afford for him to be out of work and pay for the proper care to make Torvald better. It was also here that Nora told Mrs. Linde that she borrowed the money but told Torvald it was her father that loaned it to them. Mrs. Linde replied that it was nonsense because “a wife cannot borrow without a husband’s consent” (A1). A perfect example of how during the time of the play it was thought that women were unable to handle money and loans responsibly. Another sign that women were given little respect was displayed when Torvald finally found out Nora forged her father’s name in order to get a loan. Either he was unknowing of the loans true purpose or more concerned with what the public would think, he completely belittled Nora. In his rant Torvald told Nora that he would allow her to “remain in my house” but that he would not “allow you to bring up the children; I dare not trust them to you” (A3). In the modern age most men would be grateful that their wife put everything on the line in order to gain the funds that were

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