While reading Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House one cannot help but notice the powerful underlying theme. Ibsen develops the theme, the emancipation of a woman, by emphasizing the doll marriage, and the problems that such a marriage caused.
In Act I, there are many clues that hint at the kind of marriage Nora and Torvald have. It seems that Nora is a doll controlled by Torvald. She relies on him for everything, from movements to thoughts, much like a puppet that is dependent on its puppet master for all of its actions. The most obvious example of Torvald’s physical control over Nora is his teaching her the tarantella. Nora pretends that she needs Torvald to teach her every move in order to relearn the dance. The reader knows this is an act, and it shows her submissiveness to Torvald. After he teaches her the dance, he proclaims “When I saw you turn and sway in the tarantella – my blood was pounding till I couldn’t stand it”(Isben 1009), showing how he is more interested in Nora physically than emotionally. When Nora responds by saying “Go away, Torvald! Leave me alone. I don’t want all this”(Isben 1009), Torvald asks “Aren’t I your husband?”(Isben 1009). By saying this, he is implying that one of Nora’s duties as his wife is to physically pleasure him at his command.
Torvald also does not trust Nora with money, which exemplifies Torvald’s treating Nora as a child. On the rare occasion when Torvald gives Nora some money, he is concerned that she will waste it on candy and pastry as one would worry about a child. Nora’s duties, in general, are restricted to caring for the children, doing housework, and working on her needlepoint. A problem with her responsibilities is that her most important obligation is to please Torvald, making her role similar to that of a slave.
The problem in A Doll’s House lies not only with Torvald, but also with the entire Victorian society. Females were confined in every way imaginable. When Torvald does not immediately offer to help Nora after Krogstad threatens to expose her, Nora realizes that there is a problem. By waiting until after he discovers that his social status will suffer no harm, Torvald reveals his true feelings, which put appearance, both social and physical, ahead of the wife whom he says he loves.
Comparing the Escape Theme in Raise the Red Lantern, Handmaid’s Tale, and Doll’s House
Raise the Red Lantern, The Handmaid’s Tale, A Doll’s House: Freedom Through Escape
Women have suffered as the result of harassment and discrimination for centuries. Today, women are able to directly confront their persecutors through the news media as well as the legal system. Three important literary works illustrate that it has not always been possible for women to strike back. In Raise the Red Lantern, The Handmaid’s Tale, and A Doll’s House, the main female characters find ways to escape their situations rather than directly confronting the problem.
Songlian, the main character in the foreign film Raise the Red Lantern, finds unusual ways of dealing with her oppression. For example, Songlian often takes her stress out on her maid, Yan’er. Whenever Songlian feels the need to relieve her tension, she screams at Yan’er. Songlian’s treatment towards her maid results in a bitter rivalry between the two and ultimately leads to the death of Yan’er. Instead of expressing herself publicly, Songlian chooses to keep her emotions bottled up or take them out on Yan’er. Another example of this concept occurs when Songlian becomes intoxicated. Due to her unfortunate situation, Songlian chooses to drink an enormous amount of alcohol on her birthday. In her mind, she feels that she has nothing to look forward to in life. So Songlian escapes real life by drinking. This is yet another example of Songlian’s feeble attempt to escape her troubles. Furthermore, Songlian’s outlook on life becomes so bleak that she literally goes insane. Since she witnessed the death of the third mistress, she confirms her fear that there is no escaping her situation. Thus, she drives herself crazy. Therefore, we can see that Songlian uses techniques to try and escape her fate.
The next work, entitled A Doll’s House, deals with Nora, the main character, struggling to achieve happiness in life. While Nora lives with her husband, Torvald, she pretends to be happy and satisfied with life, but in reality, Nora lacks purpose in her life. For eight years, she never discusses her situation with Torvald because she does not want to face the truth about herself. Nora feels obligated to live her life as a caring mother and an obedient wife. Also, Nora pretends to be happy for a reason. Whether she knows it or not, Nora tries to be the ideal wife and mother by letting herself be governed by the laws of society.