Personal response: A Doll’s House

Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was uncomfortable to read for me. I dislike Torvald, not because of how he appears as an antagonist where he loathes borrowing a loan even if it is for his own sake; but it is rather because everything he says is contradictory. When he tells Nora, “I wouldn’t wish you any other way than exactly as you are,” (p. 113) he means that he doesn’t wish Nora any other way than a “song-lark,” a “squirrel,” or a “little spending-bird.” He cannot accept Nora in any other way and calls her “a hypocrite, a liar,” and a “criminal” when he finds out. (p. 178) He cannot accept the depth of Nora’s character and truly treats her like his possession; an object.  When Nora  finally talks to him on equal terms, he said, “you talk like a child.” (p. 185) However, when Nora acts like an actual child and asks for his guidance, he accepts it happily, which I find incredibly hypocritical and uneasy to watch. When Nora leaves him at the end, I thought I would be happy because Torvald is left alone and got what he deserved, but instead, it was not satisfying and I ended up feeling bad for Torvald. “To part—to part from you! Nora, I can’t grasp the thought.” (p. 187) Although Torvald remains masculine and a “husband-like” image throughout the play, he is fragile in the sense that he is afraid of living without Nora, even though he has less to lose than her. However, even though I feel bad for him, I still can’t forgive him especially when he proposed “but then can’t we live here as brother and sister–?” (p. 187) I wonder why do some people think this is even possible? Even till the end of the play, Torvald still cannot understand why Nora decides to leave him and the children, which upsets me the most.

I didn’t like Nora as a character at first, and I didn’t pity her very much or treat her as a victim. I thought she placed herself in the situation, and I particularly didn’t like how she borrowed a loan without understanding exactly how to repay it. “These kinds of transactions, you see, are so extremely difficult to keep track of.” (p. 123) But she didn’t have any other options other than to urgently borrow money to save Torvald’s life. If I were Nora, I wouldn’t have done any better. I also think she is far from ready to raise three children, even with the help of maids and a nanny.

Helmer: Not–? Not happy?

Nora: No; just cheerful. And you’ve always been so kind to me. But our home has never been anything other than a play-house. I’ve been your doll-wife here, just as at home I was Daddy’s doll-child. And the children, they have in turn been my dolls.” (p. 183)

It is not because of Nora’s “moral flaw” that makes her unqualified as a mother. It is because of how she has never fulfilled any duties to herself, or to live as a human being that makes her unable to bring up her children.

I felt very uncomfortable and confused as I read this play. But I conclude it is because of how I was able to relate to it, that I disliked it. However, I think all the characters in this play are equally as pitiful.



6 thoughts on “Personal response: A Doll’s House”

  1. I agree with you when it comes to Torvald still not fully comprehending why Nora is leaving him. It almost makes the whole play a little unbearable, because not even at the climax Torvald understands what is really happening. Great post!

  2. It makes sense to me that this play can give a feeling of discomfort. The social positions of the characters are built upon hypocrises and mistruths. Ever more confusingly, by the end of the play it can also give feelings of remorse and pity to Nora and Torvald. It was probably for the better they separated, however it is sad for us and for them that it happened. When all the hypocrises come crashing down, we are left with raw and genuine emotion, meaning that while Torvald seemed to take Nora for granted in an unthankful way, he actually cared very much for her but hadn’t learned the right way in which to express it.

  3. Hi Cecilia! I agree with what you said about how Torvald doesn’t realize the depth of Nora’s character. He continuously treats her as if she’s two dimensional, lacking any sort of substance. I can understand why you didn’t like nor pity Nora at the beginning. I think it’s important that the readers are aware of her flaws, because that shows she’s human. If she started off as a fully conscious, feminist, intelligent character, we wouldn’t have seen any growth, and it would have made the ending far less impactful. I also like how you considered what you would have done in Nora’s position, I think that’s important. Wonderful job!

  4. I liked how you honestly expressed your feelings about the play. You explained your ideas in a logical order, making it easy to understand and enjoyable to read. You used quotes from the play to help support your statements, which were effective. Your conclusion wrapped up all your thoughts into a few simple sentences which was nice to see, as that is something I am trying to improve upon. Good job!

  5. I think it is quite sad how Torvald is so consumed in his own life and career to actually pay any attention to his family, which then makes me not feel bad that Nora chooses to leave him in all honesty.

  6. Hi Cecilia! I felt the same about the play, it was uncomfortable to read. Although we both dislike Nora and Torvald but we see it from a different perspective. After reading your post, I have a little more sympathy towards Nora. Good post!

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